Teardowns without the mess

Since offering a virtual teardown of a Tesla Model X crossover, Caresoft Global has scanned other high-profile electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt, right, and the Tesla Model 3.

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DETROIT — Tearing down vehicles part by part has long been a way for automakers to glean insights about their rivals’ latest models.

But engineering firm Caresoft Global Inc. has a much easier, faster and cheaper way to accomplish the same goal. Its virtual teardown technology can save automakers millions of dollars and hours of valuable product development time.

Caresoft engineers use high-tech 3D scans to digitally strip apart vehicles — down to individual battery cells, wires and screws — and sells the data to curious automakers and suppliers for up to half a million dollars. The company’s software also can provide information about the materials used and cost of each vehicle component.

“You’ve never seen a competitor’s car like this,” Caresoft CEO Mathew Vachaparampil told Automotive News. “Is the technology perfect? No, but it is the best in the world today.”

The company, founded in 2007 and headquartered in Detroit, started offering virtual teardowns of Tesla’s Model X crossover and has since scanned other high-profile electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3. It plans to add the Jaguar I-Pace and other vehicles.

The auto industry is taking notice.

Building 3D renderings

Caresoft has signed deals with more than 20 automakers and a number of Tier 1 suppliers globally. Ford Motor Co., which has bought Caresoft’s data on a number of vehicles, recently honored the company with a World Excellence Award in the “Smart Brand Pillar of Technology and Innovation” category. Caresoft is also a finalist for the 2019 Automotive News PACE Awards.

In a statement after the Ford awards ceremony, Hau Thai-Tang, the automaker’s head of product development and purchasing, said Caresoft is the kind of supplier that’s “key to Ford’s continued success.”

It takes Caresoft four to five months to scan a vehicle, a process that can cost millions of dollars. Once that’s finished, the software builds 3D renderings of the vehicle and all of its parts that are accurate down to 0.35 millimeters, or 0.01 inches.

Users can “explode” the vehicle to see individual components or cut it in half to see how everything fits together. They can analyze how battery cells are laid out or why certain welds or bonding processes were used. Certain programs also can run exterior aerodynamic simulations or crash analyses.

Caresoft Global’s Mathew Vachaparampil, center, celebrates the company’s World Excellence Award from Ford Motor Co. with the automaker’s Joe Hinrichs, left, and Hau Thai-Tang.

Learning about rivals

The software’s cost-compare information can show individual part numbers, which supplier they came from and other detailed information that automakers can use to reduce costs.

Vachaparampil said Caresoft has advanced vehicle teardown technology the same way the Apple iPhone revolutionized mobile phones.

Sharing the teardown information with rival automakers does not infringe on intellectual property, he said, because Caresoft is simply buying production vehicles and showing what anyone could see.

“We’re telling you what they’ve done; we’re giving you the information,” Vachaparampil said. If an automaker “decides to copy it and violate a patent, that’s when the problem starts.”

Understanding what competitors are doing is becoming increasingly vital for automakers as powertrains change and vehicles get packed with more technology.

One advantage of Caresoft’s technology: Engineering teams from around the world can view a vehicle’s information at the same time through virtual reality or 3D renderings on a computer, allowing them to make faster decisions.

“Today the issue in the market is not knowledge and it’s not money,” Vachaparampil said. “It’s speed.”

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