There is a wide range of interest regarding this topic surround us, the vehicle engineering scene in Malaysia. University graduate talks about the job prospect, the Joe and Jane wonders if the Malaysia has the facilities to properly design the car, while the Mr Basher thinks Malaysian car are made of thin Milo, assembled by monkeys, tested by the corrupt and sold by the leech. Thus, the objective of this article is to offer an insight on the overall scenario throughout the chain of developing the vehicle, in context of what is available in Malaysia of course. It is not a small scale business, as the total development cost of the new car is more than RM500 million, and some specialized vehicle has even surpassed RM1b mark. This summation excludes the cost of setting up the vendors business and other support item, so the total value involved is even larger than this. In this first instalment of the 6 articles MMN is going to walk you through the high-level overview of stages in vehicle engineering, before breaking out into the details in the next 5 instalment.
Believe it or not, Malaysia has the complete sets of facility to grow the car from the clean sheet of paper. Typically, the definition of the car is derived from the conception stage, which outlines what car the company will build. This is firmed up based on market trend, cost analysis and of course the long range product planning strategy. Malaysia is blessed with some charismatic people like Syed Zainal, who led the development of Perodua Myvi and a host of new-age Proton cars like Persona, Saga, Exora and Preve which is really what the market wants.
The next stage in the line is the vehicle feasibility study, where the packaging work (the location of man & machine within the car), cost analysis and preliminary engineering design are done. Somewhere around here, the team of stylist will work on the aesthetic of the car, religiously sticking their head to the screen of digital renderer and clay model.
Once firm, the detail engineering work will take place, where the genius bunch of engineer will let their hair down in front of powerful workstation, scrolling the mouse endlessly to complete the 3D design (which is drawn based on the global best practise, supported by intensive benchmarking tear-down activity) while interactively exchanging design iterations with CAE people who is ensuring the strength, durability, air flow and noise level are well within the global vehicle design standard. These sections are costly, powered-up with a big computer servers running high-end software like Catia for 3D and 2D drafting, Nastran, ABAQUS and LS-DYNA to simulate the structural integrity and crash worthiness as well as Computational Fluid Dynamics software such as Star-CD and Ansys Fluent to study the aircond flow, heat dissipation, dust and water deposition, cooling efficiency and vehicle aerodynamics. Wind tunnel is involved too here, where parameters such as drag and lift force are measured, as well as engine cooling assessment where all are correlated back to the CFD models.
When the first-cut design stage is completed, the manufacturer will move towards the first physical stage,be it straight to intial production (or P0 as some termed it) or pared back to prototype level. This process is applicable to every single components in the car. It could be a simple door locking stub, or it could as well be the newly design engine. The rest of the stage will be the development where exhaustive routine of testing is performed, day in and day out. In-house testing covers accelerated weathering and abusive loading, preliminary crash testing and many more. Early cars will also start to accumulate mileage outside the factories, giving us the blogger aplenty of chance to catch the first glimpse of the new car under development.
These are lengthy process where no less than two years are consumed. Almost parallel to the vehicle development is the factory preparation where the assembly line is prepared, long lead time tooling (such as stamping die) are ordered and so forth. So despite the lengthy gestation period, the working margin for anybody is small, as the procurement and fabrication of long lead time item need to be done early, imparting an early design freeze of major components.
Don't get freak out with all this complicated items. We will go through one by one, carefully examining the concept, the scene in Malaysia and what each stage means to us as the consumer. So stay tune.