Ford moves design into virtual reality

Company uses 3D design app Gravity Sketch to work on its designs virtually

Published: February 2, 2019, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 2:56 PM

Ford designer working in VR

Ford is designing its vehicles in a new way, skipping over some of the early design stages to speed up development by weeks.

The company is using Gravity Sketch, a 3D design app, to work on its designs virtually, placing the designer in the place of the vehicle’s end user while the car is being designed. This way, challenges faced by the customer can be headed off at the design stage without having to “go back to the drawing board.”

Using the virtual-reality design environment, designers can literally design cars around themselves, from the user’s point of view. Ford is the first automaker to work with Gravity Sketch, allowing the company to design what it calls “more human-centric designs.”

Historically, vehicles are sketched out 2-dimensionally and only approved sketches move to the 3D modelling stage and in recent years that has involved virtual reality to determine the design’s feasibility and adapt it as it needs.

With Gravity Sketch, the design process moves right into that later stage with designs being created and evaluated in one stage that condenses a process that used to take weeks, into a couple hours. The design team can also work with designs that may have been rejected prior to the evaluation stage, without realizing that maybe there were some aspects that could have been easily tweaked.

“Jumping right into 3D gives us a 360-degree view of a vehicle as it is being created,” says Ford design manager Michael Smith. “It moves the entire process into the world of virtual reality, giving us greater options for reviewing more models in the 3D environment to create the best possible vehicles.

“This application has the potential to help ensure we are delivering the very best vehicle designs for our customers,” he added.

Ford is working with Gravity Sketch at its five global design studios, with a dozen interior and exterior designers not only creating new vehicles, but also virtually sharing and evaluating designs with the other studios almost in real time.

In return, Ford is helping the app designers fine-tune their application for the needs of industrial designers everywhere.

“Our collaboration with Ford designers has enabled us to get immersed in their creative process and discover ways to help fine-tune this application to better suit their needs so they can build the best possible vehicles for their customers,” said Oluwaseyi Sosanya, co-founder and CEO of Gravity Sketch.