Toyota brings Dream Cars to life as miniatures
The new Engineering Inspiration Award
The 2015 contest introduced a new award, the “Engineering Inspiration Award,” which goes to the entry that inspires Toyota’s car production staff the most. The winner is selected by Mitsuhisa Kato, Executive Vice President of Toyota and head of the R&D division. The prize-winning concept is made into a 3D miniature car through Toyota craftsmanship and unveiled at the awards ceremony.
Minhal Adnan Sami (UAE, age 9) received the award this year for her “Ecofix Car.” Running on vegetable and fruit compost, the car has features that help both people and the environment. She hopes her “Dream Car” will spread peace to everyone.
At the awards ceremony, Mr. Kato addressed the children warmly: “As a Toyota engineer, I have been in charge of cars for many years. But I was completely surprised to see so many unique and original ideas that we adults could never imagine.”
The intensive trial-and-error process behind the production
How was the 3D miniature car born from the passion of Toyota technical division engineers?
The Prototype Production Division served as the production team. The members of this division are true car design professionals, transforming ideas and designs into real cars that you can see on the road.
Once the winner was selected, there were only two months until the Awards Ceremony. The following procedures were carried out during this short period.
- 1) Making a sketch for a three-dimensional image based on the original drawing
- 2) Creating an industrial clay figure based on the sketch
- 3) Scanning the figure with a 3D scanner to produce digital data and then outputting the data via a 3D printer
- 4) Making all the fine parts by hand, including the tires and wheels
- 5) Attaching an exterior seed-sowing part
- 6) Applying coloring to complete the car
Tsubasa Endo, who was involved in the entire design, and Fumitaka Ikeno, in charge of coloring, shared their experiences with us.
Q: What did you find most challenging?
A: “Making all the fine parts by hand. I’d never done such detailed work before. For instance, a ‘tree’ on the body not only required a skilled technique, but in order to transform a two-dimensional drawing of a tree into a three-dimensional object, I had to use my imagination by getting inside the mind of the artist.” (Endo)
A: “There are several coloring methods. I used spray because it produces the nicest finish. But since we were using several different colors, whenever I was spraying one part I had to mask all the others. In my regular work I only use one color, so using several different colors on one body was a challenge for me. Plus, spraying just once wasn’t enough to get a good finish, so I had to spray at least four times for each color, which meant masking all the other parts again each time.” (Ikeno)
According to Endo and Ikeno, their goal throughout all the hard work was to bring joy to children. The farm on the background panel looks three-dimensional thanks to the use of perspective, with the house in the center of the panel smaller than the one on the far side. Looking back, Endo says he struggled to find a way to create a sense of depth before finally arriving at this solution.
Figuring out the message behind the picture
The part of the miniature car that required the most ingenuity was the “seed”-sowing mechanism (actually polystyrene foam).
A motor inside the model drives a fan, and the wind generated by the fan disperses seeds out of a yellow tube through the roof.
Three other proposals were considered before this one. One was to have the fuel tank dispense coins when compost is inserted. However, the coins were too small given the size of the model, so the team passed on that idea. The second was to make the car move. However, the team decided they wanted to try something a little more unexpected. The third was collecting rainwater on the rooftop and then using the car muffler to water plants. This idea actually competed with the seed-sowing idea until the last minute. You can still see evidence in the form of a hole in the model that was originally intended for water.
Endo says he had many discussions with colleagues to figure out the message behind the picture in order to visualize the hopes and dreams of the child who drew it. Whenever he got stuck, his seniors and colleagues gave him support and advice. Endo says he is proud of their efforts and the strong interpersonal bonds that made it possible for him to complete the piece.
When the miniature car was unveiled at the awards ceremony, the venue was filled with excitement and audience members expressed their awe. It goes without saying that Minhal was the most excited of all. Ikeno says, “I knew that Minhal would be there when the miniature car was unveiled, so I had her reaction in mind the whole time I worked on the car. Seeing her smiling face at the ceremony made me happy as well.”
Endo says that when he first saw Minhal’s submission, he was strongly drawn to the word “PEACE” written on the car body. “I’m a fan of reggae music, so when I saw the design I thought of ‘Love & Peace’ and felt like it was meant to be. I’m proud to have been involved in this project. I truly believe that it’s our duty as adults to help children’s dreams come true.”