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Cadillac used a 3D scanner to create the Elmiraj concept in less than a week

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I can’t get enough of the gorgeous Cadillac Elmiraj concept. I love its brawny bodylines and its elegant, yet sturdy visual presence.

Turns out, GM designers didn’t accomplish this visual masterpiece by accident, as the Elmiraj was formed by utilizing 3D scanning technology.

It’s odd to think that in a world of computers and CAD that nearly all cars are still designed in clay by hand. Car designers start with concept sketches and then hand-sculpt a scale model from a giant block of clay. This scale model is eventually remade as a full-scale clay replica of the car.

GM is doing things a bit differently. Cadillac designers still start in clay, but, from there, the process is far more high-tech. The scale model is bathed in light and scanned with a special camera. The camera detects the curves and refractions of the light and translates that into a literally picture-perfect digital model of the car.

This sounds pretty basic. After all, movie studios have been using similar systems to thrill us with lifelike orcs and aliens for the last decade. But while the idea might seem pedestrian, the results are anything but.

The 3D model can minutely track and evaluate every change the designers make, allowing them to go back to previous iterations at any time. It also means that it is much easier to go full scale. The 3D model can be implanted into the unstoppable robot brain of a computer-controlled lathe, and a full-scale model can be machine from clay in hours.

All these computers and robots take a design process that used to last months and shorten it to mere days or weeks.

Because designers have the chance to go through more iterations in less time, the final design is likely to be more refined.

The Elmiraj is a great example of how this process works. For starters, it is one of the best-looking cars that we have seen from any automaker in a long time. It also has gone from design sketch to likely production car in record time.

So if we get more cars that look like the Elmiraj, I say bring on the 3D scanning!

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