The renowned face of the Setra brand is under constant development
Tradition and authenticity make a significant contribution to design
The design underpins the classic Setra brand values
Designers visualise future design idioms
Close co-operation between Development and Sales
Continual project supervision right up to the market launch
Setra customers know that the touring coach they are travelling in meets all legal requirements, boasts exclusive comfort-increasing equipment and brings the driver and passengers to their destination in the highest possible level of safety. This is, in part, thanks to the designers at EvoBus Development, a Daimler brand that has always been known for its uniqueness in the branch, not to mention its unmistakably liberal style; EvoBus are thus able to complement the classic Setra values of comfort, value, quality and customer-oriented variance.
Right from the very first sketch, the top priority of the designers from the Daimler Buses development team is to combine the functionality of a new Setra bus with an extraordinary appearance and thus set the scene for a strong brand presence.
“Our aim is to continue developing the appearance of the renowned Setra brand from series to series, without losing sight of tradition while at the same time building a bridge between what has already been achieved and what it yet to be explored,” explains Mathias Lenz, Head of Design at Daimler Buses. Head of the Design department in Neu-Ulm since 2010, Lenz explains that it is not just a case of being allowed to continue using existing ideas, rather a necessity: “Setra buses represent evolution”. At an early stage of the development, the six designers incorporate form-based ideas into the conceptual design work, thereby turning on its head the universally accepted design principle of “form follows function”, according to which the design is derived from the intended function.
Design work starts with a so-called “package” from the Development department. These clearly defined specifications include, among other things, the dimensional concept and the new technical objectives that must be met by using an effective modular design concept as a large number of common parts guarantees cost-effective bus production, despite a wide range of vehicle variants being available.
A brand which generates passion
In their creative work, not only do the designers incorporate current European legislation concerning safety systems and the reduction of exhaust gases, but also the ideas and requirements of the Setra Sales department. Another top priority here is thus a clear definition of the three relevant target groups: companies, drivers and passengers. Mathias Lenz explains: “While the future operator seeks an attractive, high-performance product with high value retention, the focus of the driver is on reliability and functionality. The priorities of the passengers are comfort and convenience.” It goes without saying that all three look for a safe vehicle whose quality and appearance illicit a sense of pride. After all, the design of the bus represents the Setra brand, which must in turn demonstrate the Setra values in the European bus market as well as generate a passionate response from the industry. The buses from the Neu-Ulm production site thus need to satisfy the current demands of operators and, at the same time, plant a seed for future generations.
In order to be able to answer tomorrow’s questions today, the designers open their eyes and ears to the world, visiting trade fairs and meeting with bus companies and associations. With their flair for future trends, they are able to establish a sound knowledge base. As Mathias Lenz explains, “there are no short-term trends in the bus industry.” Despite having a very independent appearance, every Setra vehicle is harmoniously incorporated into the overall product family. In the first instance, this is achieved by distinctive style features and key elements which communicate the same identity across the entire portfolio, but at the same time, each bus additionally displays a very individual design idiom.
From the sketch to the design freeze
Completion of the design development process takes one year, from the first sketch to the design freeze. Once the design data has been approved by the Management Board at Daimler Buses, the data for the new bus is “frozen” for subsequent development stages and subsequent modifications to the design cannot be made.
During a design meeting lasting several days and generally held at a neutral location outside of the Neu-Ulm Development Centre, the entire team gets started on sketching initial ideas and suggestions. In addition to pencils and paper, the technical specifications and samples from the current product portfolio are all that is available. What results is a multitude of design ideas which the group sort at a later stage. Mathias Lenz: “We basically assemble the initial bouquets from a meadow full of colourful flowers.” Initial discussions with the relevant project managers from Development follow, as well as with the employees from Brand Sales. There are then three final concepts to choose from, which require further elaboration and rendering. Rendering involves the generation of a sophisticated sketch using computer graphics, providing an initial impression of the material, size and shape of the new bus.
This virtual design process grants designers quick and simple access, facilitating speedy verification and alignment of the current data by the relevant development engineers. Mathias Lenz: “As the design of the new bus progresses, this synchronous collaboration within the individual development areas is very important for achieving solid results without any great loss of time.”
This constant exchange takes place from the beginning of every process step, for example, during the tests carried out in the Daimler wind tunnel in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, where designers and aerodynamic engineers make subtle adjustments to a 1:4-scale clay model which can be easily moulded. The aerodynamic airflow guarantees a reduction in fuel consumption and thus represents an important aspect of economic efficiency. It gives designers the opportunity to create a vehicle “face” with very distinctive features.
Following the subsequent photometric scanning of the model, the data obtained is incorporated into the existing data model.
For a 3D representation, the data models are prepared as a realistic model, which can be rotated in real time and which serves as the basis for the final decision regarding the design freeze.
Basis for tool manufacture
Even after the go-ahead has been given for the design freeze by management at Daimler, minimal changes may still be made in agreement with Testing and Production. The model is also used as a basis for prototype construction, after which the tool manufacture data can be passed on to the relevant suppliers. The work of the designers doesn’t end there, however, with Mathias Lenz and his team involved in all further development processes, from the exterior to the interior, from market presentation to the start of series production.
It is not just the design idiom that plays a central role in the overall design process, but also colour, material, surface finishing and treatment. With these “trim and colour” aspects, the internationally active design team uses their expertise to provide every new Setra touring bus with a clear identity.