Advanced Technology Program ATP Home Page NIST Home Page

Project Brief

Open Competition 2 - Information Technology

Building a Virtual Auto Body: The Digital Body Development System

Develop a decision support software system that will integrate the virtual building of an automobile body structure with functional build decision making software to help designers, engineers, and vehicle launch teams solve problems and predict how solutions will affect quality, cost, and schedule.

Sponsor: Center for Automotive Research (CAR)

3025 Boardwalk
P.O. Box 134004
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
  • Project Performance Period: 10/1/2003 - 9/30/2008
  • Total project (est.): $10,827,208.00
  • Requested ATP funds: $5,286,000.00

The Auto Body Consortium has brought together automobile and tool manufacturers, a software development firm, and academia to develop the Digital Body Development System (DBDS), a complex and innovative software system. While previous efforts have focused on design methodologies, this project focuses on body development and manufacturing validation because these areas are so problematical and costly. DBDS will enable virtual implementation of functional build through the integration of a dimensional and finite element simulation engine with an agent-based decision support system. DBDS will simulate a newly designed automobile body and link its many components and manufacturing elements virtually, allowing designers and engineers to identify and solve problems before any assembly occurs. Then design and simulation results are integrated with manufactured part data to identify problems and novel solutions during launch. This is expected to reduce time to market and improve quality by focusing on the assembled product rather than individual parts. Also, by applying a systems perspective to monitor total program costs, the DBDS will allow cost reduction decisions that optimize the whole program (a capability the industry currently lacks). DBDS components will include a) a data preparation and repository module where all data in the system are collected; b) a virtual assembly simulation engine to simulate the assembly function and to generate dimensional and residual stress distribution for specified measurements across the vehicle body; c) a problem identification and ranking module (PIRM) to link simulation results with implied causal connections; d) a solution generation and evaluation module that applies case-based reasoning to identify the best solution to the given problem areas; and e) a change cost estimation module to estimate the time and cost associated with each solution. Although joint venture members are contributing more than $5 million over the project's four years, ATP funding is needed because this technology is high risk, challenging and expensive to develop, and not commercially viable during the developmental stages. If successful, the joint venture members estimate that over a six-year period adoption of the DBDS will lower body assembly costs, by $3.5 billion; significantly increase revenues to the automobile supply chain; and produce thousands of new jobs. Possible qualitative benefits include increased model variety and vehicle quality (making U.S. cars more competitive), increased learning across vehicle platforms, and a codified problem-solving process for sheet metal stampings and assemblies that will transfer to other industries, such as aerospace and major appliances.

For project information:
Heather Grisham, (734) 929-0472

Active Project Participants
  • Altarum Institute (Ann Arbor, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • American Tooling Center (Grass Lake, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • Ford Motor Company (Dearborn, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • Atlas Tool, Inc. (Roseville, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • CogniTens (Wixom, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • UGS (formerly EDS) (Troy, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • Riviera Tool (Grand Rapids, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]
  • General Motors Corporation (Pontiac, MI)
    [Original, Active Member]

ATP Project Manager
David Swanson, (301) 975-8984

ATP website comments:
Privacy Statement / Security Notice NIST Disclaimer NIST Information Quality Standards
NIST is an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department