This is part 2 of our two-part series on Automotive Lighting Design.

You can read part one here

Typical Automotive Lighting Design Job Opportunities

The automobile manufacturing industry is experiencing steady rapid growth with the adoption of advanced technologies in automobile components increasing the overall efficiency of automobiles. Due to these factors, manufacturers are focusing on components that consume less power and increase overall efficiency. For example, the integration of LED headlights in luxury vehicles and SUVs that have a longer lifespan as compared to Halogen & HID lights. With all this progression, a qualified candidate can easily grab a very good job opportunity with an attractive remuneration package.

Scopes of Opportunities in Automotive Lighting Designing

In particular, automotive lighting designers typically enter the domain with a bachelor's degree in industrial design, mechanical engineering, automotive transportation design, or a diploma in either of these specializations. These programs train the students in both the traditional drawing and computer-aided design skills essential for automotive lighting designers. Automotive designers often work for product design firms as well as for major motor vehicle companies like Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors. 

Most automobile designers mainly work in OEM (like TATA, GM), Tier-1 (component suppliers to OEM), Tier-2 (component suppliers to Tier-1), engineering services, and other companies in different verticals.

Annual Salary Expectations

If you’re pursuing a mechanical engineering degree or have a relevant 2-year engineering diploma or one that builds skills in plastics you can enter the automotive design field easily. You can start in any automotive lighting division as a GET. The average remuneration for a GET is a minimum of 4-6 lac annually.
If you have accumulated experience of up to 5 years, you can earn up to 10 lac annually.
Furthermore, once you have gained 10 years of experience, you can earn up to 15-16 lacs. However, a chief technical officer in this field can earn up to 35-40 lac annually in the current market.
Chief technical officers essentially guide other team members on how the light should be designed as well as supervising the testing and validation. 

Career Trajectory

Automobile lighting design is a creative-driven profession and depends on a high level of technical skill and attention to detail. Once you enter an automotive company like - TVS, Tata, Toyota, Mahindra, Eicher & Ashok Leyland, you’ll typically start as a GET. You can then get promoted to senior engineer after two years of experience. From a senior engineer, you can get promoted to the post of assistant manager after three years of experience. After another three years, you can gain promotion to the deputy manager. (This is under ideal conditions, where the economy does not crash and you manage to consistently impress your superiors with your work ethics and manage to bring innovation to the factory floor.)

GETs
As junior executives, the major responsibility of any GET is design and development. Focused on employing design concepts, GETs will finalize the scope of work and concept generation through hand sketches, brainstorming. Then proceed with 3D CAD creation. This will involve a lot of iteration detailed and in-depth knowledge of the intended structure, safety, and impact. For all this work, you will use CATIA as the main design software.

H.O.D and C.T.O

From the deputy manager to Manager is another three-year process. From Manager to H.O.D (head of department), and HOD to chief technical officer is dependent on your performance. 

Workplaces are primarily categorized into departments - the interior design, exterior design, and color design.
Interior automotive design handles the inner portion of the vehicle and aspects like shape and positioning of different panels inside the vehicle. However, lighting designers tend to focus on exterior automotive design. This entails developing the visual appearance of the vehicle while taking care of ergonomics and aesthetics. 

Typical Roles in Senior Level Positions.

Senior Level positions come with added responsibility due to accumulated experience and skill. Senior automotive designers also need to be familiar with various aspects of handling a proposed model. Consequently, they tend to work closely with the automobile engineers working on the core functionality.
The basic requirements that are necessary to thrive in this position is:

  1. Design and Development: If a department is initiating a lighting design intended for release in a year. That design has to consider strict specifications and cost-effectiveness whilst adhering to current market trends to maintain relevance. Additionally, factors such as passenger and pedestrian safety regulations, and increased demand for luxury, comfort and ambiance require careful consideration. It is why automotive designers spend the majority of their time working in an office though they may occasionally work on production floors where their designs are produced.

  2. Making Lamp Test Reports: Once the product is ready the product will undergo testing.  Suppose we desire the environmental testing, for example, in a rainy season, headlamps will have a chance of getting fogged. More recently, the International Road Federation (IRF) urged Asian governments to make front and rear fog lights mandatory in all vehicles. Designers have to systematically engineer for fogging in their designs.
    For instance, if condensation occurs, what are the countermeasures?
    All these facets have to be documented in a report by senior-level designers.

  3. Day to Day Issues: Senior designers typically handle day to day issues. From meeting with project managers, engineers, and clients to consider the needs and requirements for a new product. They also give guidance to GETs while coordinating departments to test and modify models under different conditions, such as temperature or humidity under the standard operating procedures. They decode requirements from upstream departments and make sure they are converted into the required designs before release to the downstream departments.

  4. Resolve Shop Floor Issues: On the factory floor, there will most likely be machinery issues while implementing designs using plastic. So senior managers will be required to resolve such issues and provide countermeasures. These are the basic duties of any senior-level executive.

Case Study

Alluring new models that hit the road have always been a major source of attraction. This is primarily due to the novel and innovative lighting fixtures that stand out. The market is currently driven by the rising awareness related to automotive safety systems and corresponding government policies.
In this segment, we shall look at the workflow that occurs in lighting divisions.

Tail lamp production process.

It’s important to note that during the vehicle development process, several automotive builds take place in parallel with the design process. Additionally, since car headlights have evolved, there are several types of headlamps employing different technologies, and hence different manufacturing methods. 

  1. RFI: RFI is an acronym for ‘Request For Information'. Before a new product is released in the market there will advertisements, that tease the product. Journalists will be active in writing content consistently to promote the product. A prototype is sometimes built for testing to gauge the public response. It helps the manufacturer to assess the demand in the market. 

  2. RFQ: Once the demand in the market is ascertained and a case is justified to make a facelift or a newer model, then the RFQ process is next.  This RFQ (request for quotation) process entails circulating an RFQ request for quotation. This specifies the required dimensions and parameters required to achieve a newer design and the cost associated. The design will need to conform to various Government standards and regulations such as emissions, fog considerations, strength, safety, etc. Subsequently, the company will contact 5-6 suppliers, and ask them to submit quotations based on the demand and specifications.

  3. Business Award: Once the RFQ has been satisfied, the contract will be awarded to one or multiple contractors/subcontractors. This process can be quite competitive and involve multiple bidders. But priority is normally given to experience, cost-effectiveness, and comprehensive fulfillment of the requirements specified in the RFQ. Once the contract has been awarded, the Class A process is initiated.

  4. Class A: Class A is whatever you can see on the front of a car. If you're looking at any vehicle, take the example of a car of the headlamp, whatever you’re touching for the first time is called a Class A surface. So, suppliers will give you class A and you have to assess whether the surface satisfies the technical requirements for the lamp. For example, given the extremely high luminance of modern light sources, the increased source flux and reduced aperture size of projector-module headlamps can raise the potential of glare for other drivers. 

  5. Checking as per Regulation: Some Government regulations might focus on far-field intensity distribution and do not explicitly define limits to luminance. While some regulations can dictate a minimum luminous intensity; for OLEDs, translating into a minimum emitting surface area to achieve the desired emission. 

  6. Feedback from Customers: Once the supplier has passed the regulatory requirements, the design is given to a select focus group of customers, who then voice their reservations, if any, about the design. 

  7. Design of the Lamp: After approval of the concept by the focus group, the team will continue with CAD creation. For designing the lamp, you need to leverage the CATIA software. 

  8. 3D printing, feedback, and updates.: The design is then run through a 3D printer and the 3D printed part is shared with the customer to get recommendations or for modification purposes. If there are any recommendations, the design is altered and sent for the next step in the process. 

  9. Freeze Design and Making 2D:  2D designs can be achieved on CATIA. Once you create the 2D model, you can then link the design to the 3D model. And if any change occurs to the model, for instance, if a radius changes, reduces, or is discrepant, then you can easily update the radius since the 2D design is linked to the 3D in CATIA. 

If you’re a GET, then your work will probably be done here and you’d be required to submit the rest of the work to the tooling engineer.

  1. Tooling Cutting: The tooling engineer will cut down the tool prototype. Once the mold has been made, they will then run a demo test. After that is completed, they will do a visual inspection and give them feedback. They can then update or make adjustments as per the recommendations.

  2. Final Sample: Once the tooling adjustments have been made, they are taken to the lab for further testing and analysis. And we have a feasible sample.

  3. Test Validation: Once all the necessary tests have been exhausted, such as thermal tests and photometry tests, and we have an appropriate sample, then we can start production.

  4. Submit for Production: Once the production has started, you can submit the parts to the end-user.

How to get into this Domain

Basic Domain requirements

  1. CATIA

  2. Knowledge-Training in Plastics 

  3. Basic knowledge about lighting

  4. Tooling

The different divisions in an organization that you can join are. 

  1. Product development division (mainly focused on design concepts, after approval of the concept by the client, the product development team typically continue with CAD creation)

  2. Design Service division (handles regular service requests from clients, this includes creating CAD as per Client guidelines. Typically involves combining 2D and 3D models.)

  3. Analysis division (involves design analysis and validation. Essentially checks design life to ensure it meets safety standards. Sometimes evaluating the design through finite element analysis (FEA)

Interview Fundamentals

 The fundamental requirement to get into this domain is CATIA proficiency. If you go for an interview or are invited for an internship, the first questions will revolve around CATIA. CAD skills will be tested on CATIA. Once your CATIA model is approved, the next stage will be the technical round. This will revolve around plastics and other basics we have highlighted in this blog. Once you nail those two elements, you're good to go. If you're a GET, they will teach you tooling and polish your other skills on the job. So, focus on CATIA as demand will always be there. 

You can enroll in our specialized CATIA course (Automotive Lighting Design using CATIA V5) to get you familiarized and started on this awesome journey.  Goodluck.



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