Making the Case for Industrial Design Clay

Renault Twizy on Road “Today, with digital CAD models, we can arrive at 90% of the product. But when you have milled a model and put your hands on it, you will always find areas that need changes. In those cases you’ll have to sculpt and work with clay: it is still a very special, artistic aspect of a designer’s talent that computers simply can’t do.” –Patrick Lecharpy and Luciano Bove

Hand model with clay is one of 10 Tips for Aspiring Car Designers, offered up by the design team of Lecharpy and Bove. Both men work in research and development for French-based car company, Renault.

Just two years ago, the team from Renault released an interesting new vehicle to the market called the Twizy (“twin and easy” combined). The Renault Twizy was designed from the outset as an ultra-mobile, all-electric, two-seater vehicle—one passenger sits directly behind the driver. It’s identified somewhere between a scooter and a compact car and doesn’t even require a driver’s license (depending on the model).

Renault Twizy in ClayThe Twizy represents a completely new concept in body design: open bodywork, optional gull wing doors, a windscreen, and an original lighting signature. This could be why industrial clay played such a valuable role between concept and market.

According to Lecharpy and Bove: “In order to achieve the high surface quality and reliability required in the automotive industry, we followed the typical, well-established design process involving the creation of full-size clay models.

“The hand making of these models allows a physical approach that is still the best method for designers to understand and evaluate forms and volumes, and also represents an artistic quality to the work.”

Twizy Cargo VanIt sounds like careful styling could pay off. Since its release just two years ago, over 12,000 units have been sold worldwide through March 2014. There are at least two different models of the Twizy, and in June of last year, Renault even released the Twizy Cargo Van (and by cargo, they mean a few pizzas).

Beyond the scope of the Twizy, modeling clay continues to be an industry standard for three-dimensional design studies. In addition to the hand-styling factor touted by the Renault team, it perfectly complements modern computer-aided modeling processes. It can be milled, scanned, carved, extruded, and slicked to an extremely accurate, glass-like finish. Clay is adhesive, doesn’t show seams, and holds great detail.

In fact, see what Ford Motor Co. had to say about clay modeling in the Wall Street Journal just this week.

This month, Fibre Glast introduces our new AutoStyle Industrial Design Clay. AutoStyle works like it’s sulfur-based clay, but is sulfur-free so there’s no risk of compromising metal equipment in the shop. It’s 35% lighter than most traditional industrial clays, so you reduce costs and hazards involved with moving your clay designs. And, like our entire Chavant line, boasts great adhesive properties. See our selection of quality Chavant brand clays at

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