GRAZ, Austria -- Magna Steyr's latest project pushes virtual engineering to a new level: creating an all-new vehicle, from concept to manufactured car, without a single prototype.
Last month, Magna Steyr began engineering a vehicle based on a new platform using virtual engineering only -- a process that eliminates the construction of prototypes during development.
Previously, four new vehicles had been developed in Europe using virtual engineering. But those all were based on existing platforms.
"Virtual engineering is evolving continuously," Werner Wilhelm, vice president of engineering and research and development at Magna Steyr, said in an interview. "We are ready to begin a complete new-vehicle development -- platform included -- in which all the validation process will be carried out without the need for any physical parts."
Wilhelm declined to identify the manufacturer or type of vehicle Magna Steyr is engineering.
So far, virtual engineering has been seen mainly as a way to shorten development times, but not costs. What developers save by not building prototypes is typically spent on using more, better-trained engineers to virtually validate the project.
For example, Magna Steyr took only 18 months to engineer the Fiat Bravo and 16 months for the BMW Z4 roadster, which had a higher number of carried-over parts.
"But over time, virtual engineering will also reduce costs because it is a tool that is continuing to progress," Wilhelm said.
Internally, Magna Steyr has 60 software engineers working to develop a new virtual-engineering process. The company calls it (V2SE)2 because "visionary virtual simultaneous engineering of the second generation" is too long.
Magna Steyr expects to complete the process by late 2007, but it already used part of the process for the Z4 coupe and Fiat Bravo engineering.
You may e-mail Luca Ciferri at [email protected]