Designing cars is tricky business. Not only do designers have to comply with strict safety regulations, they are also restricted by company guidelines be it in terms of budget or aesthetics. Which is why college years are the best, and possibly the last ones, for them to explore freely.
At this year’s Royal College of Art graduate vehicle design show students exhibited a number of inspiring ideas. This London post-graduate college provides the zenith in design education – its alumni reading like the who’s who of leading car designers the world over. This year students looked into innovative car sharing ideas and explored more sustainable manufacturing methods in their final year projects.
Korean student Kyungeun Ko’s sports car explores craft and craftsmanship with a modern twist in her final year concept. To achieve this she worked with the simple principle of origami – using something called the Robo-folding manufacturing method that does to metal sheets what origami achieves with paper. ‘This technology enables metal products with low energy and minimal facility,’ she explains. ‘Also, it creates beautiful surfaces with the quality of a flat sheet.’ As there is little or no waste, the system is highly sustainable and can allow for more personalised exterior sculpting for low volume, premium cars.
Jan Rosenthal worked on a similar theme for his project Lexus LF-Zero. ‘A free-range egg awakes positive associations with green meadows and happy chickens,’ he notes, ‘I want to carry over this free-range phenomenon to the automobile.’ The German-Japanese vehicle designer’s project explores not only the use of recyclable and reusable materials, but manufacturing processes that leave zero waste.
He explains: ‘Taking the Cradle2Cradle idea as a model, my concept abandons non-separable materials, using wood and aluminium, which are representative, of both technosphere recycling and biosphere decomposition.’
Working with London firm RoboFold, Rosenthal replaced the conventional stamping press that requires heavy tooling for one that involves folding and sculpting a single metal sheet. The method allowed him to implement the design directly into the system. He believes it works well for low volume luxury vehicles where individual design is the differentiating factor. He starts work at Rolls Royce after graduation.
Another notable graduate is Austrian Lena Knab. Her project Pure Light is a car for the Chinese market taking inspiration from ceramics and sunlight. She believes that demand for eco-luxury is on the rise in some urban areas of China where people are moving away from the culture of excessive consumption and returning to an appreciation of craftsmanship and artisan work to balance their digital daily life.
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