Ludovico Campana Sergio Pininfarina TUC 3D

This post is also available in: Italiano

TUC Technology is among the world’s most innovative projects in the mobility experience context. Its peculiarity is to overcome the concept of a vehicle as a simple mobility tool, by integrating the vision of a living environment: an intimate space that each user may customize. Presented in the past month of September at the TUC Special Event, the TUC prototype has achieved great public and critical appraisal due to its ability to bring a breath of fresh innovation to a sector – the automotive sector – that is rather reluctant to veer from its ultra-consolidated standards.

Behind TUC Technology there is a great 3D history, and 3D Stories could certainly not sit on its hands to this regard. To get to know the TUC “behind-the-scenes”, we have met up with Ludovico Campana, the designer and founder – together with Sergio Pininfarina – of the TUC Technology startup company.

(FLT) – How was the idea of TUC born?

(LC) – From the will to look beyond the vehicle as a matter of style, in an attempt to give life to new mobility expressions, which may be truly functional to user requirements.

(FLT) – TUC allows customization of the vehicle by integrating different kinds of devices, as we have witnessed at the TUC Special Event, where you presented the appealing example of a coffee machine made by Lavazza…

(LC) – Today a simple smartphone gives you access to apps catering for any requirement, using absolutely cutting-edge technology. Why have these not yet been integrated and widespread to cars costing thousands and thousands of euros? In our opinion, the mobility sector must begin absorbing the customer-centric concepts that are revolutionizing the entire product industry. Customization has a key role in all this, as each of us may be allowed to configure a vehicle according to our desires. TUC makes the technology to do so available to all car manufacturers.

(FLT) – You managed to create a prototype in less than two years. A surprising result to say the least, considering the complexity of the project and the fact you only had startup-size resources available. It was 3D design that made such result achievable, with its support to all development phases…

(LC) – Without 3D tools, TUC would have most likely remained just a pretty idea. 3D tools allowed me to design a concept like TUC essentially on my own. Moreover, it has been crucial in communicating the idea to potential partners, convince them to support our business vision, and give life to the prototype you have seen at the TUC Special Event.

(FLT) – How much has the ability to view the design in three dimensions affected the project as it was being developed?

(LC) – Rendering has been fundamental for at least three stages, in which we have systematically used both static images and animations:

  • During design, to assess and validate our idea internally, especially at the early stages;
  • To communicate our idea and convince the business partners we had identified to cooperate with us for the project;
  • To collaborate with our partners in the executive phase, which has led to the manufacture of various components and devices for the TUC prototype.

(FLT) – Which elements of the TUC were affected by rendering itself throughout the design phase?

(LC) – We have revealed the physical prototype to the public at the TUC Special Event. To finally see it complete was an incredible feeling, but also the confirmation of the good work we had carried out in the design process. The two-year procedure was constantly supported by 3D tools, in an interminable loop: Idea (sketch) -> 3D Model -> Rendering. For a designer, the possibility to see the result of a change in real time makes a huge difference. It allows avoiding rash mistakes and continuously improving design. You are in constant control of all the design elements.

(FLT) – What is the price to pay upon implementing a fully digital, 3D workflow?

(LC) – There are of course pros and cons, to be assessed with extreme caution. To rely fully on 3D tools implies having considerable knowledge of the field as a starting point, and especially the confidence deriving from years of professional use. Just because you create a digital prototype doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to create a physical mockup. You can create a 3D prototype once you know all the elements of physical prototyping perfectly. You must know how to handle curves, materials, and all the aspects affecting the style and details of each component created. As absurd as it may seem, the simplest part ends up being the use of 3D tools software itself. Whether it is Alias or Rhinoceros, in the end CAD is simply a tool – though an increasingly powerful tool – available to the designer. The skills necessary to design in the automotive field are always the same. I haven’t seen any revolutions in this direction.

TUC technology 3D rendering 01
Rendering of the TUC platform, the basis for the prototype presented at the TUC Special Event. The sober aluminum chassis reveals its technological soul through its transparent interior, highlighting the connections between the intelligent TUC Brain and the various configurable peripheral devices (credit: TUC Technology)

(FLT) – The innovation brought by 3D CAD thus does not lie in using it in the broad sense, but in implementing its basic approach and the ways in which its tools are used…

(LC) – This is especially true in the automotive sector, where the creative workflow has followed the Idea -> 3D Model -> Rendering method for years on end. 3D has entered the automotive field long before other design sectors; already in 1989, some of the Fiat Tipo Restyling parts were designed using 3D CAD. The land is thus extremely fertile in terms of digitalization. Those working as designers in the automotive field have a high digital literacy. The matters on which we shall focus our attention on are thus others: to define new goals on the basis of new ideas, and especially to know how to communicate them to the various stakeholders involved. Traditionally, knowing how to describe one’s idea is one of the most complicated things to do for a designer. In this context, 3D tools – when used responsibly – offers incredible tools that are decisive in defining the success of an initiative.

(FLT) – Tell us about some of the aspects related to the use of 3D tools in the TUC communication phase.

(LC) – knowing how to describe ones idea is one of the most complicated things to do for a designer. Every person, every professional, builds a different perspective concerning a design, which doesn’t always – or rather, almost never – matches that of the designer. The added value of 3D is to facilitate communication by making it more accessible to all. Rendering, animations, and interactive experiences are incredibly precious tools to involve anybody in your project vision. Reaching the TUC prototyping phase has been the final destination of a path including over 600 meetings and nearly 6500 presentation slides. Throughout the process, the information that could be extrapolated form the 3D model has been extremely precious to support our communication with the world. Rendering has allowed us to communicate how the TUC works and to earn the trust of business partners, with whom we are continuing the development phase to this day.

TUC technology 3D rendering
TUC allows customization of the vehicle by means of accessories to “live” the ride, to overcome the philosophy that a car’s function is limited to transportation. One example is the Lavazza module, facing the passenger’s seat, which lets the user to make coffee safely and securely. Its “smart” seats have been designed by Sabelt. The TUC system may be comfortably managed through an app, developed in cooperation with Samsung (credit: TUC Technology)

(FLT) – You also claim that 3D tools has played a crucial role in the manufacture of the TUC prototype. What are the project phases for which it has been crucial for, in particular?

(LC) – In the executive design of the parts. For example, we have cooperated with Sabelt to design the seats. Sabelt is a world leader in the sector, and its designers have an incredible know-how concerning seats, but were never faced with a machine the likes of TUC, rather unusual compared to batch-produced vehicles or sportscar prototypes. We thus needed to cooperate in close contact so that all the design specifications could be satisfied. Our aim was to communicate to Sabelt what our seat needed to do in order to connect efficiently with the TUC system, and they, in turn, had to translate such requirements to a concrete and functioning product. It has been an amazing experience, throughout which we have interacted with designers boasting great experience in the 3D sector, which has become the common language to share our objectives.

(FLT) – The future of 3D is growingly oriented towards interactivity, as in the case of immersive technology. In the automotive sector, we have already witnessed certain interesting examples of concept designs created using VR. What is your opinion on the matter?

(LC) – Tools such as Gravity Sketch and the like certainly represent the future of automotive design. The ability to design in a virtual reality environment and directly interact with an object in space is an enormous added value to both the design and its assessment. The distance between 3D and reality is reduced even more. It is thus simply a matter of making such tools mature, and inevitably it will take time and patience. It is important to follow the evolution of such innovations closely, test them, and try to understand which ones can truly satisfy our demands.

TUC technology 3D rendering
TUC was born with a strong vocation towards self-driving and mobile connectivity, outracing competition in entering the technological stage of future mobility and next-generation networks (credit: TUC Technology)

If you want to read more about TUC Technology:

TUC Technology – officiale website

TUC Virtual Store – the VR Experience of TUC Special Event

This post is also available in: Italiano

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Francesco La Trofa

Architect and journalist with 20 years’ experience in 3D technologies.
Consultant to public entities and 3D businesses for aspects relating to design and communications.
Head of editorial content at Treddi.com and co-founder of Digital Drawing Days, the only event of its kind in Italy.
Actively involved in research and teaching at Milan Polytechnic.
Edits 3D STORIES for Protocube Reply.