The marketing directive was ambitious – develop an example of what creative freedom looks like to capture the imaginations of 300 automotive design professionals in a Geneva nightclub. A dark nightclub. Just another day at the office for the design team at the architexture studio in Manchester, UK.

Our design team often partners with customers who have previously been constrained within a rigid framework of options for surface textures and then struggled to quickly come up with a solution before that box of limitations turned into a coffin.

So, how do you spark a conversation about creative freedom with mingling designers at a dimly-lit soiree? Play with a spark of inspiration. Indulge your curiosity until you arrive at an unexpected metaphor for your brand. It turns out that when you take a trip into these uncharted waters, you can end up with a Manta Ray – truly.

With effective design, the meaning of the piece can be derived from the form itself. Mike Miller, Head of Design for architexture explains, “The Ray is replicated in a similar volume and proportion that you would expect from an instrument panel. This is our target audience after all. Like an instrument panel, the winged Ray is mostly skin on a thin skeleton of cartilage that radiates out from the spine.”

The resonance it shares with an instrument panel is evident with the recent release of the Bandini Dora, another project from architexture. This concept car features a distinctively-shaped center panel that divides the driver from the passenger with a curved, double-winged structure spreading out under the windshield and reaching its tail through to the back.

Miller explained that creating a biomorphic sculpture also honours the origin of the texturizing industry which started by camouflaging manufacturing imperfections on parts with the look of leather grain. The skin of this Ray is comprised of several complex patterns that shimmer in organically shaped patches and cover a rhythmic beat of curved ribs from the tip of the wings to the tail.

To provide more context for the display, the Ray swims toward an ocean of tall cylindrical lights wrapped in printed mirror film to give the blue waves depth. Together, the arrangement evokes a feeling of enchanted flight and playful exploration. These are the emotions we want our customers to have when working with our studio; there is a world of creative possibilities waiting to be discovered, our expertise and technology can take you there.

Although the Design Night event we sponsored with Car Design News was cancelled due to the spread of the corona virus, our team was ready to demonstrate how we make the design process easy with this display. This memorable sculpture is an example of how our modelling technology gives designers the confidence to test products and get it to market fast. Using ultra high-resolution 3D printing, a custom texture as fanciful as a Manta Ray skin can be produced, and even re-produced quickly if changes are needed. With our fit-to-form technology, the texture is applied without seams or distortion to clay models, ureol models and prototype substrates for evaluation. Finally, at Standex Engraving Mold-Tech, we produce the texture on the mold at one of our 46 facilities around the world.

We look forward to featuring this sculpture as part of our display at the Automotive Interiors Expo in Stuttgart, Germany this June where we will truly watch our Manta Ray take flight. Stay tuned!