LEAFIELD, England - Silicon Graphics and TWR Group Ltd. have joined forces to open a high-tech automotive design center here which uses virtual-reality modeling.
The partners have already signed up several automakers and are seeking further contracts.
'The center will help manufacturers start taking layers out of the development process,' said TWR Chairman Tom Walkinshaw. 'With this system, designers will be able to do something in a few weeks that took months to do before.'
The system projects computer-aided design data on to a curved screen for a three-dimensional effect. Such technology can reduce lead times by reducing the number of physical prototypes needed.
Ian Callum, chief designer for TWR, said a single clay model can cost £120,000 (euro 182,000, $190,000). But he acknowledged clay models still have their place, particularly during the final phase of the design process.
TWR - which employs around 2,000 people in four countries -designs road and racing cars and engines. It is well known for its involvement in international motorsport, but most of TWR's business involves confidential road-vehicle programs.
Current projects include the Swedish AutoNova joint venture with Volvo to manufacture the C70 coupe and convertible.
Silicon Graphics, based in Mountain View, California, is a supplier of a variety of high-performance computing and advanced graphics solutions.
TWR has already used Silicon Graphics technology to design performance cars, including Nissan's R390, the road version of the Le Mans GT1 race car. The design was completed in eight months.The virtual reality center at Leafield cuts model development time dramatically.