The drive to succeed

Design a vehicle from scratch in three years to enter a highly competitive market which is already carved up, with not just the public watching but also your new German parent company? Land Rover did, and came up with Freelander.

Freelander is Land Rover’s first car to have a monocoque bodyshell. It has independently sprung wheels, a transverse engine and a new gear option for descending steep slopes safely.

Every aspect of the new design was conceived by Land Rover engineers in the UK. Because the project began shortly after BMW’s take-over of the Rover Group in 1994 the pressure to produce a high-quality product was even more intense than usual. And, with an already crowded and competitive market, the need to produce it quickly was imperative.

Every new vehicle must undergo a substantial testing period of up to two years. So to minimise time-to-market the design must be completed as quickly – but obviously as completely – as possible. Land Rover aimed to have the Freelander ready for market inside three years, and for a vehicle being designed from scratch, this would be no mean feat. Land Rover’s design team was confident that the best way to streamline the design process was to adopt a concurrent engineering strategy based on Computervision’s EPD (Electronic Product Definition) tools.

For design purposes, the Freelander was split into 10 approximately equal sectors, broadly distributed along the length of the car. The front bumper and headlight assembly were in Sector 1, and the tailgate and the spare wheel mounting in Sector 10. Sector 5 brought front and back together to a certain extent with the floor pan and all the 4×4 transmission and exhaust systems. Each Sector had its own multi-disciplinary subset of the design team.

The new approach meant that the structure of the Freelander was defined long before the component parts had been physically – or even digitally – created. Each Sector team had to work independently of one another, but, to ensure that everything fitted together, each Sector needed access to the others’ parts geometry. The software that made this possible was Computervision’s CAMU (Concurrent Assembly Mock-Up).

CAMU allows design departments to formally lay out a complete assembly structure in advance of detailed design. As parts are created, pictorial representations of them begin to populate the assembly tree, and when these components need to be worked on they are ‘signed’ out individually so that the designer only activates the parts that he needs. In this way, designers will only be denied access to data if it is being used somewhere else. Land Rover’s ‘Rules of engagement’ ensure that no part is signed out any longer than it is needed.

The CAMU assembly model became far more than a repository of information, it also played its part in key design and manufacturing decisions. For example, the angle of the spare wheel mounting was changed after the CAMU model showed that it did not quite work aesthetically, and it was possible to generate animations to prove the innovative rear window operations.

Even with the tightest control over data and assembly layout, the quality of the final vehicle boils down to the quality of the part modelling: there is no point ensuring that all the parts fit together if they lack the form and style required. Land Rover used Computervision’s CADDS 5. Phil Ravenscroft, one of the team leaders in the Land Rover design office says, ‘We were setting out to model the whole of the car, from the headlights to the head gasket. We needed a reliable, versatile, high-end CAD system, and CADDS 5 had everything we needed.’

The Freelander project was completed on time and its reception so far is very promising for the vehicle’s success. Ravenscroft says ‘It really is quite an achievement. Without CADDS 5 and CAMU we would not have had the Freelander so soon, and we would never have had the quality vehicle we wanted.’

Computervision. Tel: 01203 417718.