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Work meets Play | Virtual Reality for Engineering

Work meets Play | Virtual Reality for Engineering

Virtual reality not just fun and games

Bringing new products and processes to market is a challenge for many enterprises, large and small. Especially when as products are more complex and the processes to manufacture them develop faster and faster. Gone are the days of relying on physical prototypes to validate that engineered products can be integrated with other subsystems, assembled efficiently and safely, or serviced once in the field. The advent of CAD in the late 20th century promised the end of prototyping, only to find that some issues only became evident at start of production, or even worse after shipment of products to customers. 

With Virtual Reality, engineers can "play" with their CAD data to assure that their designs are fully integrated with the sub-assembly, general assembly, manufacturing line, and human operators. Holistic Virtual Integration, as we call it, is an engineering approach that empowers engineers and engineering teams to fully interact with their products in much the same way they would at the production pilot or prototype facility, only long before any parts are fabricated or tools designed.

Conventional Prototypes: Issues discovered during pilot assembly or during production launch are expensive, if not impossible, to correct

Prototyping of complex products and systems is a highly valuable activity, however waiting until physical tooling exists to produce prototypes is no longer viable as product development timelines have already adjusted to the promise of "no more prototypes". More than a decage ago, early adopters of Virtual Reality embraced products like IC.IDO as a method to move prototyping forward from the physical prototype into a virtual or digital prototyping practice. These early virtual prototyping applications relied on projection systems in combination with optical tracking to create an immersive virtual environment where participants could walk among their designs a make more informed decisions. In the case of IC.IDO this was not only a visual immersion, but an interactive reality where real time physics simulation enables users to emulate assembly and disassebly operations with simulated collisions and interactions between rigid bodies and elastic cables and hoses.

Virtual Prototypes: Typical "gate" or "buy-off reviews" using CAVE or Powerwall VR resolve many issues, but can still be a little late

The use of Virtual Reality for Virtual Integration reviews has, for some early adopters, been in use for more than a decade. However, the limited accessability of CAVE or Powerwall environments for Virtual Integration reviews meant that virtual reality proxies using specialized resources would batch large collections of engineering data for collaborative cross functional reviews. While such virtual reviews do represent and significant reduction in the possibility of late emerging engineering changes (when compared to physical prototypes), the practice still left potential the small problems in the integration (space claim, packaging, assembly envelope) which could have been identified earlier if VR tools were available to individual engineers or workgroups.

Head mounted Displays: Virtual reality exits the CAVE

With the advent of Head Mounted Displays, IC.IDO 11 is poised to provide the necessary tools to empower a Holistic Virtual Integration process. A process where individual engineers or smaller workgroups can integrate their CAD designs using leading real-time solid mechanics simulations with elastic behaviors for wires and hoses, assess the accessability of their components for assembly and service, experience their products as the "human-in-the-system" and naturally interact with their product designs. Using desktop immersion powered by HMD, more frequent intermediate reviews can be done on the component, subassembly, assembly, and plant integration level. Making the larger cross functional reviews performed in the CAVE more valuable and more productive. 

Try for yourself a Virtual Integration review game-like experience free on the HTC Viveport.

 

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