To Slash Product Design Cycles by 50%, Hyundai Opens New Design Studio Equipped with 3D Printing Technology


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Three years ago, the government of South Korea formed a 3D Printing Industry Development Council and unveiled a plan to expand the country’s 3D printing infrastructure on a national scale. The country has had some ups and downs with this initiative, and even though South Korea’s 2017 economic outlook was not the best, the South Korean ministry announced this spring that it planned to invest a significant amount in 3D printing industry development this year. Hyundai Motor Group, which is headquartered in South Korea, is stepping up to the plate with its luxury brand Genesis, with a goal of slashing product design cycles by half – using advanced technology like 3D printing.

We know that 3D printing can enhance the design of automobiles, improve fuel efficiency, save on expensive warehouse space by providing spare parts, and in the future, maybe even enable cars to participate in their own redesign process. But cutting vehicle design cycles by 50% is a pretty tall order…luckily, employees of Hyundai Motor Group work at a breakneck pace, which they refer to as Hyundai Speed.

[Image: Peter Kovalev, Daily News]

This obsession with getting things done fast generally only applies to engineering and production aspects. But the brand is working to majorly reduce the time it takes to introduce full car model changes, in an effort to keep its products new and fresh while also responding to quickly changing trends. The real goal is to cut the amount of design time – starting with preliminary drawings and ending at the beginning of vehicle production – from three years to only a year and a half.

Luc Donckerwolke, Senior Vice President of Design at Hyundai and Genesis, said, “As life cycles get shorter, they will get drastically shorter. I have no doubt design can be shortened by half.”

The initiative is about to hit the ground running, as a huge new design studio is opening at Hyundai’s R&D Center in Namyang, south of Seoul. Donckerwolke recently took a tour of the new facility, and predicted that over the next year and a half, his vehicle styling team will be able to cut 30% off of the usual design cycle, thanks to the newly unveiled studio.

[Image: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

According to Automotive News, even though the studio was operational last week, workers were still hurrying this weekend to add the final touches to the modern design center before yesterday’s target move-in date. The design center is only for Hyundai and Genesis, as partner brand Kia has its own separate facility in Namyang.

Hyundai spent $67 million on the 330,000-square-foot studio, which will be home to 400 workers and several large presentation spaces; the main presentation room features nine car turntables and an LED ceiling, which mimics the natural light of sunshine. A glass wall opens onto an outdoor patio, which features five additional turntables for vehicles.

Donckerwolke, who previously worked for Volkswagen Group, said, “It is better than any design studio I’ve had before.”

In addition to clay modeling capabilities, the design facility also has multiple 3D printers at its disposal, including three that, according to Lee SangYup, the Vice President for Design at Hyundai and Genesis, “will be big enough to churn out half a car each.”

[Image: Hyundai Motor Group]

If anything will help Hyundai and Genesis cut down on product design time, it’s these 3D printers. In addition, the center will allow for digitalized design, which will enable easier sharing of product plans between designers and engineers earlier in the process, which should also help speed up development time.

The studio will be responsible for 65 vehicle projects between both brands, and will be able to work on 25 at once. The extra space that the facility offers is important for several reasons, including the ability to let Hyundai and Genesis compare their vehicles side by side with competitors’ cars, while also giving designers of both brands separate, walled-off sections to work in, so that “the creativity of one brand won’t inadvertently influence the other.”

Lee said, “We don’t want our brand to be called Hyundai-Genesis.”

The new design studio is just one of several changes that the automaker, and its Genesis brand, are unveiling – they are getting ready to begin using a new design language, which will be showcased in Hyundai’s new Kona compact crossover and the Genesis G70 sports sedan and G80 sedan model. Also, Tech Crunch reports that the automaker will be using the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Pyeongchang, as a demonstration platform for its self-driving technology.

As Daily News points out, there are some risks involved with cutting product design, because most auto companies take three years between complete redesigns and five years fine-tuning their existing designs. But that’s where 3D printing technology can help – its iterative nature means that prototypes can be produced much more quickly, and typically for less money as well. Lee believes that speeding up model changes with the help of the new 3D printing-enabled design studio is extremely important to helping the automaker stay competitive.

“This shows the commitment of the brands to leading by design. We needed a more streamlined process,” explained Lee.

Discuss in the Hyundai forum at

[Sources: Daily NewsAutomotive News]


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