Autodesk® Alias® industrial design software and 3ds Max® integrated 3D modelling, animation and rendering software help Fairline’s design teams respond to design trends and customers’ demands.
In 1967 the first Fairline boat was launched. Handcrafted yet already exploiting the latest GRP boat construction techniques of the time, it was a 19 feet (5.75 metres) river cruiser. Today, 45 years later and with over 13,000 boats to its credit, Fairline is one of the world’s leading motor-yacht designers and builders, with a global network of dealers serving those who appreciate the luxury, elegance, speed and grace that a Fairline yacht delivers.
While the Fairline Targa express cruiser range combines powerful, muscular grace with large, luxuriously equipped living areas in hull lengths from 38 feet (11.5 metres) to 58 feet (17.5 metres), the Squadron fly-bridge range delivers exclusivity, elegance and performance in equal measure in hull lengths from 42 feet (12.8 metres) to 80 feet (24.4 metres) for the latest model, with free-flowing living spaces at the heart of every model.
Pioneering design coupled with traditional boat-building craftsmanship that also takes advantage of the latest design and manufacturing technologies has been key to the success of Fairline ever since its earliest years.
Today, that technology includes Autodesk® Alias® freeform surfaces design software along with Autodesk® 3ds Max® visualisation software. Both of these powerful 3D software products, supplied and supported by Majenta Solutions, are crucial to Fairline’s ability to operate its process of continuous improvement and to respond to customer demands in terms of the latest design trends and developments.
Just as with any other product, designing – or updating – a luxury motor-yacht requires collaboration between several different disciplines and the integration of the outputs from those disciplines in order to create the final product in a timely manner.
The design of a yacht’s hull is undertaken for Fairline by their naval architects. Using high-end parametric and direct 3D solid modelling CAD software, the naval architects develop the overall hull form, which is then delivered as a series of 3D CAD files – one for each boat model. These 3D CAD models are imported into Fairline’s mainstream solid modelling CAD system and later into the Autodesk® Alias® 3D surface modelling system to be used by the company’s designers as the basis for the design of the yacht’s deck and superstructure.
Initial designs for the deck and superstructure are started in 2D using the mainstream solid modelling CAD system. Here, using the hull shape model as a reference, the basic layout of the yacht is developed and head heights and other critical dimensions are worked out in order to generate a number of hard-points around which to develop the design in 3D.
This basic 2D layout information is then exported from the CAD system to Autodesk® Alias®, along with the naval architect’s hull form model, in order for the design to be fully developed in 3D.
Tom Wright, concept designer in Fairline’s product design and engineering group and an Autodesk® Alias® user, outlines the process that he then follows.
“To begin with, I use the 2D sketching tools in Alias® to start developing the exterior form, both in profile and as perspective views, using the hull model as a reference to define the footprint of the deck, as it will need to fit on the hull when the boat is produced. I will then start to flesh out the design using some of the surfacing tools in Alias® to build a basic exterior form.”
Throughout this concept design and development process, Wright uses both the 2D sketching and 3D geometry tools within Alias® to develop the design to a sufficient degree for decisions to be made for the design to be further refined and developed. The aim throughout this process is to arrive eventually at a 3D model of the deck and superstructure that can be taken on into the engineering detailing and production stages further on down the line.
Throughout these first stages of the design development process, no real effort will have been put into refining the quality of the digital model’s surfaces. The main aim has been to get to a stage where the design intent can be agreed. When that has been agreed and the whole of the exterior design has been completed, the 3D model is rebuilt in Alias® to create the high-quality surface data that will be required for the final production processes. From this data, a 1:16 scale detailed boat show physical model is produced. This model, along with high-end renderings of the design, will be used for final board-level approval.
Once approved, the model is subdivided within Alias® into its principal components – deck, fly-bridge, mast, etc. – and the individual models are exported from Alias® in the industry-standard STEP format back into Fairline’s mainstream 3D CAD system. Here they are incorporated into the master assembly model of the complete boat and engineering details are added, as necessary, before they are output for use in the final manufacturing process.
As Fairline’s Wright says,
“While the standard tools within Alias® are suitable for producing shaded images of the 3D model for real time design review purposes in the early design development stages, for the higher quality images that are needed for board presentation and marketing purposes we use Autodesk® 3ds Max® photo-realistic design visualisation software”.
Because the exterior form being developed with Alias® is bespoke for each boat, the design development process usually requires new geometry to be modelled from scratch, using the surface creation tools and ‘overlay canvas’ function within Alias®. Nevertheless, standard parts, such as hatches and cleats, that will form part of the overall design are selected from the parts library in Fairline’s mainstream CAD system and imported into Alias® as a reference for the modelling process. Overlay canvasses are used to sketch out and to resolve design details before committing time to 3D modelling.
As is to be expected, regular design reviews are held throughout the design process. Within the design office, these reviews will take place on the desktop using shaded images of the Alias® model.
In addition to these regular ‘on-screen’ design reviews however, a 1:16 scale physical model, CNC machined from the Alias® model data in foam, will usually be produced after the first pass of exterior modelling has been completed. Usually, this model is just used to view and evaluate the design in physical form. However, sometimes changes will be made to this physical model. In these cases, the model is then scanned with a 3D scanner and the resulting point cloud data is imported into Alias® where it is used as an underlay for making changes to the 3D digital model.
Prior to the implementation of Autodesk® Alias® and 3ds Max® software, Fairline used their mainstream 3D parametric solid modelling CAD system for the aesthetic design of their boats’ exteriors. This involved a lot of printing out of 3D views of the boat for the designers to sketch over.
“Reinterpreting 2D hand sketches back into the CAD system was particularly difficult and time-consuming”, states Wright. “With Alias® however, 2D sketching is integrated with 3D modelling, which speeds up the whole design process. We can quickly switch between sketching and modelling, which provides a straightforward, integrated process for using the 2D sketches as the basis for 3D modelling.”
Another benefit that Alias® brings to Fairline’s design team is that, because it provides superior surface quality analysis tools, the 3D surface models created with Alias® can be more thoroughly interrogated for curvature and flatness and for continuity between adjoining surfaces.
“As this model data will be used in the manufacturing process”, explains Wright, “this helps to ensure that the final products are to the highest quality”.
And when your customers demand and expect excellence in terms of both style and comfort and of performance and quality, that’s a very real benefit.