The Swift Group is a leading manufacturer of touring caravans and coach-built motor homes.
It covers the breadth of the UK touring leisure market with 113 individual product models. The design lifecycle for each of these products is around two years, which means that, for each of the 113 models, refreshed designs are required every two years.
As Chris Milburn, design director at Swift Group, explains, “The main design challenge that we face is being able to package all of the individual elements required for a touring or static holiday home into a confined space in a way that makes the most of the available space at the same time as ensuring that it is userfriendly.
So it’s a case of space optimisation combined with ergonomics and aesthetics.” “But we also have a very restricted time window between the prototype and production stages,” states Milburn. “We don’t have the luxury of being able to make a series of physical prototypes for evaluation at different stages along the way.
Here at Swift, after the first prototype has been made it’s a matter of a few short weeks until full production starts. So the more decisions that can be made up-front, early in the design process, the better.”
In order to meet these design challenges, Swift Group installed and implemented Autodesk Alias 3D design software and Autodesk Showcase photo-realistic design visualisation software through design and IT infrastructure solutions specialist, Majenta Solutions.
Additionally, with the help of the Majenta Academy, a division of Majenta, Swift Group has been able to recruit new designers with the necessary qualifications and 3D CAD skills and to enable its existing Alias users to learn additional skills.
Alias and Showcase are used for the aesthetic design of both the exteriors and the interiors of Swift’s entire range of products.
In the case of the interiors, for example, a library of standard components and modules for each of the different areas – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living area, etc – is used to create a 3D layout within Alias that takes account of any geometric constraints, such as the chassis dimensions and base vehicle configuration.
When required, the sketching tools in Alias are used to sketch new shapes over existing modules to create a new version, or to create a new module if nothing suitable exists in the library.
As the design develops, surface finishes and fabric designs are selected from the Alias materials library and digitally applied to individual components in order to begin to create a better view of what the designs will look like when complete.
When it comes to formal design reviews, designs are imported into Autodesk Showcase.
Showcase’s advanced visualisation effects, such as self-shadowing, fogging, translucency, transparency, raytracing, various lighting conditions and animation, for example, are then used to create photo-realistic visualisations and animation fly-throughs that provide an accurate portrayal of what the product will actually look like in reality.
These design reviews enable everyone involved to understand what is being proposed and at an early stage in the product design process, to make the crucial decisions that will affect the later procurement, the detailed engineering and the manufacturing processes.
As Milburn explains, “While we’re using Alias and Showcase, we are mainly concerned with the aesthetics and functionality of the design.
The engineering design, when the fixings and details are determined and manufacturing information is generated, is performed later by the drawing office, where our 3D solid modelling CAD/CAM system is used to develop the master digital product model from the Alias design files.”
However, these early design decisions are vital to the final outcome.“When I look back at things at the end of a project now, it’s quite amazing to see how closely the final product matches what the Alias models and Showcase visualisations showed us. It’s very, very close,” he concludes.
Majenta Solutions gets design moving for Swift Group