Understanding Automotive Design and Engineering

The art of designing a car or a truck is nothing short of a miracle.  In this piece I am looking at personal motor vehicles, those that are made with both form and function in mind.  This, to some people, is a very daunting task.  The amount of perfection that people demand in today’s market is almost unfair but somehow all of the engineers and designers can keep up.  People want a vehicle that can reach at least one hundred and thirty miles an hour, zero wind noise, twenty five miles to the gallon minimum, and a sleek attractive body to top it all off.  All the engineers and designers are the people with the amazing minds that create these amazing pieces of art.  What they do is what I want in this piece.

To understand the reason for this paper, you need to know a little bit more about me.  I know this is unconventional but it’s the only way that this paper will make any sense as to why some one would ever want to investigate such a vast field.  Also, why stick to convention if you really want to live.  I am a first year mechanical engineering student at UNC Charlotte.  After I get my bachelors degree in mechanical engineering I hope to get masters in business administration.  With all this work I hope to become the head of automotive design for any car company.

There is a distinct difference between designers and engineers.  The designers are the people that draw the fancy little pictures of what everyone wants a car to be; big wheels, big engines, and radical lines that could never be made on mass scale for consumer consumption (with today’s technology).  The engineers are the people that take that design and make it doable.  In short the designers are Van Gogh and engineers are Leonardo De Vinci.  Meaning that even though what the designers create is beautiful and simply amazing it has no real purpose and can’t be produced or even function on a custom scale.

For Engineers there job in creating this vehicle are all the parts that one can’t see but are crucial for the car to work, things such as the engine and transmission.  The engine of the car is an infinitely complex piece of engineering.  Today’s cars, normally, use one of three engines, piston with gas, piston with diesel, or the rotary engine.  The two piston engines are almost exactly the same except for how they combust their fuel.  Gas engines use spark plugs while diesel engines use pure pressure to cause spontaneous combustion.  Though some will use glow plugs (heating element) to help the process along.  Both of these engines have many moving parts that have to work in perfect unison for it to do what it has to do.  Things like springs, belts and pumps can break at any time.  That’s where the rotary motor comes in.  Also known as the Wankel engine after its creator Felix Wankel.  It has an oval like housing with a rounded triangle or epitrochoid shape inside it that rotates around the oval.  It has vastly less moving parts and so is both smaller and lighter.  But it has its disadvantages as well.  While it is more reliable in the short run it wears out much faster then a piston engine and is not as efficient as a piston engine.  So the largest automobile use for this type of engine is for racing but the automobile maker Mazda still has a major investment in personal vehicles with rotary engines.

To get in this industry where perfection is demanded is not an easy task either.  For the engineers there is a lot of school time involved.  Some have compared getting an engineering degree to pre med for doctors.  With the countless amount of math classes that one has to take just to get his bachelors.  The natural talent that is needed to become an engineer is usually apparent.  Though it is not needed it is usually only those that posses it that make it through all the schooling to a great job.  Most engineers are at least good at math but one of the dead give a ways is the undying need to know how things work.  And to get up to the higher levels of the corporate engineer, like any other job not much helps more then having some good connections

The Future of design most defiantly lies in computers.  The things we see in the movies are not that far off.  For those who have seen the new movie “Iron man” (2008) when you see him using holograms to make his suit and move it around before he produced it that is a example of were the industry could be in a couple years (Paramount Pictures).  If we ever do reach that point then we may not need to use materials at all before production.  But it’s going to be hard to replace the ability to truly feel what you are working on

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