Nature is an essential element of automotive design. However, it goes beyond inspiration for a vehicle’s appearance. Natural features like ocean waves, mountain ranges, and all kinds of creatures can inform the choice of materials and the exterior as a whole.
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is working with Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) – the parent company of the Kia, Hyundai and Genesis brands – to take this type of tactic even further. RISD is calling on biology experts to help expand the thinking of the automaker’s designers.
“When HMG first approached RISD in late 2017, they were looking for a meaningful way to engage in sustainability that draws direct inspiration from nature itself,” said Jennifer Bissonnette, interim director of the Edna Lab W. Lawrence Nature of RISD. News week. “The president of HMG has had a keen interest in insects since he was a child and thought they were a great starting point for thinking about nature-friendly design for the future of mobility.”
The Nature Lab, born in the early 20th century, is the brainchild of RISD faculty member Edna Lawrence, whose life during her work led her to collect all kinds of specimens: flowers, leaves, shells , birds, fish, insects, minerals and marine life. – on annual trips across the United States and around the world.
The objective of the laboratory that bears his name has always been to be a place of research rather than an exhibition center. However, it is a veritable museum of creatures and materials waiting to be studied. Plants and animals, from fully intact parts to various preserved parts, including a pufferfish, a bear, a puffin and an iguana, sit alongside pine cones, shells, rocks and seed pods.
“When we look to nature for answers to the design challenges we face, we tap into 3.8 billion years of evolution that has resulted in myriad forms and processes,” Bisonette said. “From creating energy-efficient aerodynamic shapes to optimizing lightweight materials for strength, these are design innovations about which the word natural has already been said many times.”
During a tour of the RISD facilities, Bissonnette discussed the structures of butterfly wings, explaining that although they are soft, water beads out of the structures. She also noted how the birds manipulate their bodies to enter the water virtually without making a sound. These characteristics could influence both the aerodynamics of vehicles and the materials used to assemble them.
Cellular structures from other animals have played a role in the development of 3D-printed honeycomb-linked components, strong but flexible surfaces capable of absorbing impacts.
Lightweight materials and new age design are particularly important to HMG, as the company’s design team looks for ways to push traditional boundaries, given new parameters surrounding vehicle electrification and sustainability. Shapes play an increasingly important role as fuel efficiency becomes a top priority, as does safety in a world where vehicles will soon drive themselves.
“Unlike a traditional program sponsorship, the HMG said Jieun Bae, researcher and design engineer at Kia Future Design Group. said News week.
“By highlighting these aspects, the partnership aims to draw inspiration and inspiration from the principles and solutions of nature. This approach recognizes the importance of sustainable practices, ecological balance and harmonious coexistence with the environment.”
The Nature Lab is a study location offering access to authentic natural history specimens in a library-like environment. Microscopes, high-speed cameras and advanced imaging systems sit alongside card catalog-like storage of long-dead creatures, larger taxidermied animals, articulated skeletons and plant-filled aquariums.
“With rapid advancements in electric vehicles, autonomous technology and sustainable transportation, HMG recognizes the importance of staying at the forefront of these developments and hopes to gain access to creative minds and new perspectives that can push back the limits of traditional automotive design through the partnership with RISD,” Bae said.
One could get a glimpse of these new perspectives by delving into the collections of the Microscopy and Advanced Imaging Laboratory, part of the larger Nature Laboratory. There, researchers can use an electron microscope capable of magnifying objects up to 350,000 times their actual size, as well as a high-resolution 3D scanner to observe the smallest details of a butterfly’s wing, the beak of a a bird or the skin of a worm. This allows cellular-level analysis of the structures that keep seemingly fragile wildlife alive despite harsh conditions.
As automakers around the world seek to modify environmentally harmful materials and production processes, biomimicry, replicating the forms of nature, appears to be an intriguing way forward.
“(This) partnership has facilitated a cultural shift within HMG, particularly in terms of sustainability knowledge and the adoption of biomimicry as part of their design and innovation processes, thereby contributing to a more sustainable future and inspired by nature,” Bae said. “This change allows HMG to align its practices with the growing demand for sustainable solutions and position it as a forward-thinking, environmentally conscious automaker that develops more efficient, more resilient and more eco-friendly products. environment. »