At GM Headquarters in Warren, Michigan, engineers, executives and designers can gather around a powerful new tool that shows them a life-sized version of a future vehicle. It’s not a model in the traditional sense. There’s no clay, metal, wood or plastic involved. Instead there is the Powerwall with its 24-foot screen.
The Powerwall screen can display the vehicle in 2-D for simplicity or go for 3-D. Every aspect, from individual parts to the whole design, can be examined in crisp detail. Computer graphics allow the user to portray the vehicle in real settings from cities to the countryside.
This new tool is intended to reduce the long timeline often needed to bring a new car to market. Traditionally, details must be hashed and rehashed over hand-crafted or small screen computerized models. Money may be saved as bad ideas are eliminated before expensive prototypes are produced.
The Powerwall lets viewers interact with the computerized model. Parts can be moved, and elements changed. All the while, a team can contribute to the process simultaneously with a fuller knowledge of the vehicle under development.
This will have an effect on the manufacturing process as well. Executives may be able to make better decisions about retooling a factory based on the evidence that they can see with their own eyes. Designers may make changes after witnessing their designs come to life in realistic settings.
The Powerwall could be thought of as an enormous HDTV. In fact, it has a 5879 x 2160 resolution which is about double the vertical resolution and triple the horizontal resolution of a high-def television. Christie Digital Systems produced the enormous Mirage DLP projectors. The middle of the image is an overlap of pixels, demonstrating how precise these two projectors must be to create the necessary image. A central PC oversees 16 PCs to create the image.
With a faster timeline, executives and designers can target their ideas to the present and not just guess at the future.