There are no model makers or craftsmen among the 74 employees at Carcerano, an Italian company that specializes in virtual reality.
Every member of Carcerano's staff works in front of a computer screen.
Carcerano, which is based in Turin, doesn't design cars. But it helps designers and engineers transform their dreams into realities through the evolving techniques of virtual reality.
Carcerano can assist the designer by creating three-dimensional simulations and movies. These may help evaluate driver visibility or a car's ergonomics, for example.
On the engineering side, Carcerano makes feasibility studies, structural analyses and virtual prototyping. Crash compliance can also be virtually tested.
The company was founded by Piero Luigi Carcerano, a 47-year-old architect. Carcerano opened his own architect studio in 1980, the same year he joined Lancia's technical department at Fiat Auto.
'For over 15 years I worked in the car business during the day and as an architect in my spare time,' Carcerano said. 'As I began working at Fiat Auto on virtual simulation systems, I realized that was what I really wanted to do. I left Fiat Auto and, in 1996, I added car engineering to my architect studio activity.
'I am deeply convinced that virtual reality will be a dominant activity in the future of the car business,' Carcerano said. 'With virtual reality, the designer has full control of a shape, and it cannot diluted by the craftsmanship of the model maker. The virtual reality designer can even check if the surface is really feasible in term of production dies.'
Carcerano said a virtual design prototype is much more detailed than its three-dimensional counterpart.
'The real one is always missing a part or not completely updated with the latest modifications,' he said. 'And, of course, finding and solving problems on the virtual assembly line costs a fraction of discovering and fixing them in the plant.'
Carcerano had revenues of E3.5 million in 1999 and expects about E5 million this year. Audi, BMW, Fiat Auto, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Opel, Saab and Suzuki are among its automotive customers. Carcerano also does work for suppliers such as Bosch, Delphi and Magneti Marelli.