How Harley-Davidson Uses GPUs and 3D Modeling to Cut Months Off Its Design Cycle

by Ken Brown

Harley-Davidson is using tools from the movie and gaming industries to shave months off the design and development of its motorcycles.

Matthew Gueller, a senior industrial designer for the company, told the GPU Technology Conference about how his eight-person design team is able to crank out new design concepts in hours, even minutes.

The veteran industrial designer said Harley has gradually moved away from traditional styling tools, which entailed sketches and clay prototypes requiring painstakingly slow iterations. By adopting 3D modeling tools and 3D printing, the design team can create new prototype components in less than 24 hours.

Harley uses a suite of Autodesk applications – including 3D Studio Max, Maya, Mudbox, and Alias – running on workstations powered by NVIDIA’s Quadro and Tesla GPUs

These are “not traditional tools for Harley Davidson – they are from the gaming and entertainment industry,” Gueller said. “We love it, it’s awesome.”

He said the modeling done with these programs is a “paradigm shift that’s a game changer.”

The tools have helped his styling team develop a component model in 5-10 minutes, and get a new prototype from the 3D printing team by the next morning. Four or five days were required using traditional methods.

Taken together, programs running on GPU-based systems “shave months off the development of new motorcycles,” he said.

“It used to take four people on our team a few months to develop a new bike design. Now, two people can design a full motorcycle in two weeks,” he concluded.

Harley-Davidson's TK
Harley-Davidson’s Matthew Gueller talks about modern motorcycle design.