Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Wenzel Design Studio Solution

According to the much-quoted Steve Jobs, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Modelers and designers know that the design process depends on details. This requires full concentration and machines that make the process easy and not over-complicated. This is exactly the approach taken by Wenzel Design Studio Solutions – milling machines that facilitate the daily work and specially designed for the requirements of design studios.

We at Wenzel agree with Mr. Jobs, I guess.

In our other two blog postings this month we discuss the need for a clay model as part of the vehicle design process (here) and some of the equipment needed to bring the development of these clay models to completion (here).

We accept that maybe not as many full-size clay models of vehicles are made today, per project, as less ‘stylish’ prototypes can be eliminated from consideration in the digital world. However, the public demands new models and facelifts more often, so there are more projects than in the past. We still see a very high demand for clay model production.  Assuming we are right about the continued need to build full-size models before final management sign off of new designs and facelifts, then we are also right to continue to develop our solutions for modelers and when in front of them, convince that the Wenzel ideology will make the most impact in their process in terms of start to finish speed and in terms of the quality of the finished model.

So what is different about the Wenzel solution?

There are two different approaches to clay milling and the iterative process of modifying a clay model.

Move the model to different stations (milling machine, floor plate, scanner). Particularly in the milling phase the individual process will be fastest, but in our view the process is not fastest overall. Logistics are also needed to move the model around and the model has to be realigned and set up each time it is moved. This is particularly time-consuming when small refinements are being made and there is then a need, in each iteration to update the opposite side of the model and update the CAD. There is a variation of this process where the model remains stationary and the milling machines and scanners are moved to the model. We classify this as a similar process and a great deal of logistics and set-ups are needed. Fast individual processes, delays from logistics and set-up.

The second approach is to have a long, flush-floor, cast iron plate with a number of arms on each side providing a numbers of locations for models/projects. The models remain in the same place throughout the project. The arms can be used for many different functions as and when needed by each model/project. No logistic delay and no set-up time.

Wenzel Design Studio Solutions follow the second path. There are some competitors in this area too, but the key difference for the Wenzel solution is that we provide everything - the CMM Mill machines, different milling heads, cubes, measuring heads, laser scanners, scribing tools, controllers mounted on the arms, wireless joysticks, simple touch panel interfaces and sophisticated software to cover all tasks in the styling studio.
All of this from Wenzel and supported by Wenzel.

Another Wenzel differentiator is our flexibility. So if you need a plate 200” or 2,000” long, you can have it. If you want one arm per side or 10 arms per side, you can have it.

We look forward to showing you how our design solutions really work. In the meantime, take a look at the beautiful design of our new generation of CMM based milling machines.

We like the look and feel and the way they work. We hope Steve would have liked them too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Design and the NAIAS

January in Michigan means two things typically; our Sundays are now free because the Lions aren’t in the playoffs and, its Auto Show time. If you have never been, The North American International Auto Show is an amazing spectacle celebrating all that is shiny and new in the automotive world. It’s where car companies come to launch new models, show off their latest designs, and set their sights onthe future with concept vehicles.

Whether you are into cars for performance reasons, styling, or just a fan of not walking everywhere, this show is a must see. There are certainly other shows around the country and the world, each with their own flavor and style, but the NAIAS is the main event for the US Auto Industry. Year over year, it features more new model launches than any other domestic auto show making it a critical event for the industry.

Quite frankly, it’s an event that we locals take for granted, just like the Lions missing the playoffs. It’s just what happens around here in January. We take for granted the sleek new designs, the glamorous displays, and the throngs of visitors that pass through the exhibits. But there was a time when the auto show was different, when it wasn’t trying to seduce us with dreams of cars to come. In the early years, the show was focused on regional dealers and simply selling more cars, no different than visiting a show room. But then in 1938, everything changed with the launch of the Buick Y-Job.

Y Job
Harley Earl

Introduced by Harley Earl, G.M.’s first design chief, the Y-Job was the first "concept car" developed with the intent of gauging consumer feedback on style and technology, rather than purely for production. This was a game changer for the industry, and laid the foundation for the exotic and eclectic concept vehicles we see today.

But the Y-Job did more than just set a direction for auto shows; with more emphasis placed on future styling and vehicle aesthetics, manufacturers now needed to build up their ability to design and style new models. This led over time to the creation of vast design departments throughout the auto industry, departments who gave rise to iconic vehicles that have literally changed the way we live. Imagine if you will, what the 1950’s would be like without tail fins, or the 60’s with no Corvette Stingray? Even things as mundane as the Dodge Caravan were ground breaking designs in their day and made an impact that still shapes the industry.


This emphasis on design and style, helped shift the automobile from a utilitarian product, to one of mass appeal. The car became an accessory for our lives that afforded us not only the freedom to travel, but the ability to brand ourselves with what we drove. Cars can make a statement about who we are, and what we value. They became an integral part of our culture and shaped the way we viewed ourselves.

The impact that car design has on our world now is different than the heyday of the 50’s and 60’s, but the process is at its core, very similar. Automotive design and styling is a marriage of art and engineering, and its success is measured in customer response.  We may research cars based on efficiency, power, handling, or even how easily we can pair our phone to the infotainment system; but ultimately we buy something that we love. We buy something that we like to look at and, something we want to be seen in. Car buying is an emotional experience; fueled by body shapes, fascia details, and lighting assemblies, are all critical details carefully designed to elicit a strong emotional reaction from the buyer.

Generating this reaction, is a tough process that begins with a paper sketch, moves to digital modeling, production of small scales models and culminates in the review of a full scale clay model by a team of engineers, designers, and executives who either give a thumbs up, or send the model back for revisions. In this modern age of computer processing and 3d printing, you may wonder why such an important process is left to a team of sculptors and a lump of clay.

Why not just review the model on a massive LED CAD terminal, spin it with your mouse, and call it a day? Why take the time and expense for clay? It likely comes back to the end goal of the design process, getting that emotional response. Though it may be simper and faster to review the designs on the screen, or 3d print a scale model, how much excitement can you really generate from a computer screen?

My bet is not much; not when you are up against a full scale model that has depth, weight, texture, and shade. All those physical components are what make up our impressions and build how we feel about the product.

It’s no different than the buying process as a consumer. Have you ever researched a car online and bought it without ever seeing it in person? Not likely. Because we are sensory beings, at some point in that decision process, we need to see the car, touch it, and feel it in order to gauge our emotional reaction. If it pushes our buttons, we buy. If not, we look at another vehicle.

In that regard, Design and styling must rely on a physical model, viewed and touched by people, in order to gauge the intended effect. You can use mathematics and statistics, digital renderings, and scale mock ups as much as you want, but as long as we buy cars based on how we feel about them, the clay model will live on, bridging the gap between art, engineering, and our emotions.

For a detailed look at the styling process, check out this video.  And check out our other posts on the topic HERE and HERE. And make the time to visit an auto show to see for yourself what it’s all about.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What makes up a design machine?

Well, ideally, you have a machine that can mill the clay to help sculpt the design and bring it to life. Some components to consider are the base of the machine itself, the carriage system, the milling head, and a laser line scanner to create a point cloud so the design can be 3D scanned and turned into a model. I am not going to cover the entire operation, one of my colleagues is writing about that, I am just going to concentrate on the technical apparatus that you will encounter.

So you have a base plate that is either flush with the floor, or that is raised. If the plate is in the floor, it will have the carriage system attached to rails underneath the floor and covered with plates. It the plate is raised, the carriage will be attached to rails on the side of the plate. There are advantages to both setups depending upon your existing spaces.

Next you have the carriage. The carriage needs to be sturdy and accurate enough to both carry out the milling operations and in turn, be able to pick up a laser to scan any changes and incorporate them into the 3D model. This is typically called an arm on a machine that is called a horizontal arm. You will have a column and the an arm extending into the working volume.

In some cases, you can have multiple arms on the same side or even multiple arms on both sides. Obviously, the controller and underlying software has to take into account for the positioning of these columns and arms accurately, as well as, keeping track of every arm position within the volume. The controller basically plays traffic cop and operation manager at the same time.

The head(s) of the class
DMH 200

The plate and arms however, are not the stars in this show. The milling head and laser scanner are. Imagine the following scenario: After a quick tour of an existing design, the lead decides to reshape a rear quarter panel. He or she then leaves expecting the modellers to mirror this change on the opposite side, as well as to update the 3D Model.

That's where the scanner and milling head combination shine. The operator tells the machine to scan the new changes and mirror them on the model. In this example, the machine moves to the desired area, scans the are, inserts it in the model, then picks of the milling head to do the prescribed changes. This marriage of these two disparate activities is our advantage.

The laser line scanners, is just that, a series of laser lines that create a point cloud of the  measured area. How is this accurate though? The whole system is built around that foundation. The base of the machine has scales that give a precise position of the column along the plate or table.

In turn, there are scales on the column which indicate the Z height of the arm, and scales on the arm itself, to determine how far it is moving in the volume. Remember we talked about the controller? The controller is keeping track of all of this, records all of these positions. The software uses this information to collect the new data and tie it to the existing model. The software then tells the controller to pick up the milling head and have the milling head carry out the modelling sequence to match the feature to be mirrored.

This is not your kids doh! 
A significant part of Car Design is the clay because it is the physical manifestation of someone's creative concept.

A quick note, one of the great things about this job, is that you come across very nice people that are willing to help educate you on different topics. Mark was nice enough to reach out and supply this information for this blog. You can find Mark at:

Mark Malewitz
Clay Warehouse Inc.
Phone: 517-333-6633

"Thought the attached might help with regard to your blogger.  Basically hand modelers want a clay that packs well onto the foam model and stays warm long enough to pack a full sized model then cools evenly for smooth surfaces and crisp edges.  They like a clay that sticks to itself really well but not to the tools too much or the model when sculpted.  They want to make repairs easily either using a small piece of clay out of the oven (usually heated to around 150F) or be able to warm some up in their hands, kneading it then pushing or smearing onto the surface and be able to use their tools on that area without the clay popping off.   There cannot be air bubbles in the clay or it will show up on the surface. 

Over the last ten years most studios have switched from a sulfur based clay to sulfur free.  This was primarily because new computer circuit boards have a silver compound for soldering instead of lead based solder.  When the sulfur based clay was heated it would release sulfur into the air and it attacked the silver causing corrosion.  

As you can imagine this was a huge problem for the design studios.  The switch from sulfur based to sulfur free has not been easy for the design studios because they were used to the characteristics of the sulfur based clay however there was many advantages.  Sulfur free clay is around 40 to 50% lighter than sulfur based helping with everything from large overhangs on models to lower shipping costs.  

Sulfur free clay is much more homogeneous whereas sulfur based clay could have 'chunks' or 'boulders' of sulfur that when a sculptor dragged a steel slick over the surface would cause a major flaw that needed time consuming repair.    

Sulfur free clay costs more per pound but a pound of sulfur free clay covers around twice the area of sulfur based so the cost is off set although this is difficult for modeling departments especially accounting to understand.

Clay models are often put outside for 'walk around' showings after having modeling film or DiNoc applied to simulate a painted model.  The clay also has to withstand drastic temperature changes going from an air conditioned studio into a hot courtyard under direct sunlight then back inside.  

So in a way, the clay almost has to be a miracle material.  It has to get soft in the oven but not too soft and not get too soft in the sunlight.  It has to be soft enough to apply and sculpt but be hard enough for proper milling and detailed edge, line definition when sculpting.  Also it needs to be something that will work well in the wind tunnel."   

When I communicated with Mark, he let me know that he had partnered with AMACO to produce such a clay that would meet all these specifications. You can get more details by contacting Mark directly. The following is from information he provided.

"AMACO MI Industrial Styling Clay adheres to all normal armature materials. AMACO MI Industrial Styling Clay may be shaped manually or via CNC milling machines.  Product formulation will provide a very smooth finish with less milling clean up passes. Super fine amounts of material may be steeled or tooled away. Formula produces less sticking to floors and tools. AMACO MI Industrial Styling Clay polishes excellently. 

At room temperature AMACO MI Industrial Styling Clay will remain pliable without hardening and cracking. Surface details will retain crisp edges. If large areas need repair or alteration, warm that area so that the new material will bond perfectly with the original surface. (This will promote cohesion rather than adhesion) 

AMACO MI Industrial Styling Clay is manufactured by American Art Clay Company in Indianapolis, Indiana ‐ United States of America."

Interested in more information? Click on this link to ask us a question.