Something big is going down in Japan.

Five Japanese automakers – Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Mazda, and five parts manufacturers – Aisin, JATCO, Denso, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi Electric – are teaming up. This isn't a new alliance, though. Instead, the automakers and parts makers have formed the Japan Automotive Model-Based Engineering center or JAMBE. Their goal: to promote Model-Based Development (MDB) across the automotive industry.

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But what is Model-Based Development or MDB? It's a method of developing new vehicle parts using virtual models on a computer and not using actual prototype parts. Rather than producing physical parts, these can instead be designed and tested in computers before actual fabrication and assembly. As a result, automakers and parts manufacturers can save a considerable amount of time and money.

The number of parts developed through this method is almost limitless, ranging from exterior panels to the individual components of an engine, such as the pistons and the like. Using computer simulation, the components can be made to behave like the real thing. This will allow engineers and designers to work together more efficiently.

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JAMBE will be chaired by Mazda Senior Innovation Fellow Mitsuo Hitomi. The center hopes to streamline the Japanese manufacturing process by minimizing errors and waste during production. Furthermore, it will create the “most-advanced development community in the mobility sector, able to carry out optimal and high-grade monozukuri more efficiently”.

The member companies hope to make the Japanese automotive industry more competitive internationally by enabling academia and businesses to share digital models across the board, linking academic research with the development of parts, systems, and vehicles.