When the first Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing Programs began to show up in the last half of the 1970s in Detroit, those of us in the know knew the auto industry was in for some change. It wasn’t until the 1980s though that the programs, called CAD/CAM by then, began making a mark in tooling, then in production. In 1982 a program called AutoCAD made industry history by being the first market entry for engineers to use in auto design. In 1985, Diehl Graftsoft entered the picture, and by the 1990s Unigraphics had a firm hand on automodeling. By 1999, Think-3 had cornered the market by bringing out the first mechanical design software that totally combined the power of parametric solids, advanced surfacing, wireframe and two-dimensional drafting for the desktop environment. Now, 3-D animated walkthroughs are on the table.
Where this leaves the enterprising designer and auto retrofitted is in a very good place. Versions of CAD/CAM software are available for professional or home installation, and if you have an aptitude for such things, can make your work in amateur auto-engineering a very nice thing to do. Take Future cars, for example. The next step up from the internal combustion engine and oil, concept cars lend themselves really well to the CAD/CAM environment, where the whole car can be planned down to the most intimate detail before a penny is spent on car parts. From preliminary drawing to driving example, these beauties are now, thanks to internet technology, within the reach of the best idea men and women across the globe.
Advanced driving systems, fuel technology, safety considerations, all will have internet based foundations, and through the use of tools like CAD/CAM can be shared via the net to build better, safer, and more efficient vehicles of the future. Just how far will the science take us? In a meeting held in Berlin in October of 2008, The International Thermoelectric Society website reported that Volkswagen showed a prototype vehicle equipped with a thermoelectric generator. The purpose of the generator is to recover the dissipated heat energy and convert it into electricity, which is able to gain about 600W from a car running on a highway.This takes care of roughly 30% of the car’s electrical consumption requirements. With the current set-up, VW says it can save about 5% of your current fuel consumption per tank. When the new mods roll in, that figure will be much higher.