Substance X-Taon concept merges gaming and automotive design

20 July 2018 | by Michael Gooderham

Allegorithmic, the people behind the Substance 3D texturing software suite, have revealed a show car to demonstrate how these creative tools can be used in automotive applications. 

Called ‘X-Taon’, the two-door fastback coupé was designed by Takumi Yamamoto, whose CV includes the 2008 GTbyCITROËN that marked the first full collaboration between a car company and a video game producer (more about that here). This time around, rather than working through a car company to create something for a game, Yamamoto and a small team of selected CAD modellers have created something in the Substance gaming platform that’s meant to attract car companies.

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As such, the X-Taon doesn’t exist in real life. Instead, it acts as a virtual demonstrator for how Substance can speed up and improve the automotive design process – especially in the Colour & Trim area. It’s thus worth noting that it went from paper sketch to finished ‘show car’ in just 60 days.

Yamamoto says of the X-Taon “I wanted not only to visualize the texture and the colour of the car but also to design a part of the car with the ability to show Substance’s parametric functions. I wanted to design a car which can showcase the full potential of the Substance software.”

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“Styling wise, I paid attention to the purity of the surface so that the design of the car itself wouldn’t interfere with the texture or colour which would be chosen afterward.”

The result is indeed clean and unfussy surfaces, peppered with enough details not to look dull or generic. Influences from GTbyCITROËN are most clear at the rear, with the main volume taking on the same flying saucer-type shape as it tucks deeply inwards below the long, skinny tail lights. One area that should show off light and shade effectively is the channel running through the roof from the windscreen to the rear bumper.

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Where the software affects the design process is in speed of iteration. Because of the way it can generate surfaces, modellers can simply alter the parameters to generate different variations of an idea. The advantages are especially evident for wheel design, where (for example) changing the number of spokes is as simple as dragging a slider, as opposed to the fiddly and convoluted process it takes in Alias.

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“With Substance, you can not only change the number of spokes but also the other the parameters of the shape. It gave me a lot of inspiration which I couldn’t have come up with without,” remarked Yamamoto, adding “Substance is [also] strong when you want to try something we call ‘parametric design’ for the surface treatment. This is also something which is not an easy thing to try and modify using Alias.

And the real-time rendering ability of Substance is amazing, as you can create variations in a few clicks.”

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Frédéric Gasson, one of the CAD modellers brought in for the project, also enjoyed the wheel designer: 

“From a plane surface, creating a 3D texture which allows you to rapidly change the number of spokes for example, and then in one click export an FBX file which is easy to print for rapid prototyping; that is something totally new in the automotive industry; generating a 3D texture of a wheel and its rib in less time than it's needed to draw it in 2D can help designers to bring new ideas quickly.”

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Furthermore, this means that CAD modellers can get involved earlier in the process, as they can do their equivalent of sketch ideation in a similar time frame to paper sketching and suggest different ideas early on, while there’s still plenty of room to implement them.

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While you won’t be able to see the X-Taon at any motor shows, it could well be that the revised process used to create it in the virtual space becomes the chosen method for cars you do see around in a few years’ time. For now, Allegorithmic have done a more in-depth blog post about the X-Taons creation.