Can Virtual Reality help Optimize Product Engineering, Manufacturing and Operations?
2nd February 2015
Using Virtual Reality for Product Development
Adding Virtual Reality (VR) to your CAE solution set may be a logical next step in your product realization process. Unlike FEA and CFD results visualisation capabilities, when you import CAD data into a VR program, you will see your designs as if you had made the actual prototypes. VR promises the opportunity for product development teams to identify more issues, optimize manufacturing, simplify maintenance, and create presentations that impress customers.
ESI Group offers a VR software suite called IC.IDO (pronounced "I see, I do") that can run either on individual workstations or on more collaborative settings such as the inside of a VR cave. Ryan Bruce, Business Development Manager at ESI Group, said: "IC.IDO improves collaborative decision-making though virtual interactions, in real time. This can be done early in the design process, which means at less cost than when the development phase is nearly complete. IC.IDO levels the playing field as engineers, executives, sales, and production can all look at and discuss the same 3D virtual image, simplifying collaboration."
When using IC.IDO software in a cave, the images will be scaled to a life-size, 1:1 ratio and calculated in real time with sub millimeter accuracy. The interactive software allows the users to not only look at CAD data, but to manipulate it. This allows the team to better test the products under production, maintenance, and usage situations. The sales team can also use the same models to immerse prospective customers in the product when still in the prototype stage, which means when it's still easy to iterate, rather than bringing in large, heavy props often too late in the process.
How IC.IDO Helped Collaboration at Ford
Ford uses VR to evaluate the interior and exterior of a car.
Using the IC.IDO software,Ford's styling and engineering team was able to work together to accelerate product development. The Ford team used a four sided immersive cave to visualize, interact with, and compare the interiors and exterior of a series of car variants. This allowed the team to discover and eliminate errors early in the design cycle.
"This increased collaboration is universal and not just at Ford," confirms Ryan Bruce, Business Development Manager at ESI Group. "Virtual Reality feels natural to use and is better than working at a workstation. IC.IDO also has efficient workflows and processes so that teams can review many design variations quickly without a physical prototype. It's fun! Our customers want to come back to the program to improve their products again and again. After all, it's easy to find issues when you are walking around the product and sitting in it as if it is really there. And since everyone is in the same room while the assessment happens, decisions are made much faster than in a meeting based on a PowerPoint slideshow."
How running IC.IDO on a Desktop Improved Mitsubishi's Collaboration across a Distance
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe (MHPSE) employees uses a cave to assess facility.
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe (MHPSE) was able to collaborate with subcontractors and buyers from around the world with IC.IDO. This level of collaboration reduced the number of errors and contract penalties, potentially saving millions of Euros.
Prior to IC.IDO, MHPSE relied on screenshots and email to communicate their designs over a distance. IC.IDO on the other hand, allows for digital meetings where everyone has access to the 3D prototype in real time.
"You don't necessarily need a cave to benefit from IC.IDO's collaborative functionality," said Ryan Bruce, Business Development Manager at ESI Group. "You can use a desktop to join a remote review meeting, and share information with 3rd parties in a virtual space. You can connect, interact and discuss the model in real time."
"Participants can share screens, markup the model and create annotations," added Bruce. "A user can show the group a problem they have discovered and then jump to their screen. The meeting can then be easily documented as images are saved as screenshots, PowerPoint slides, video, or in PDF format."
Using IC.IDO to Improve Production Safety during Product Design
Gabler employee uses a mannequin to perform virtual maintenance of a production line they produced.
Gabler is a company that develops customer-specific manufacturing equipment and production lines. Using IC.IDO VR software, they were able toreduce their development times by 15% while building safety into their production lines.
"Gabler has to make machines that will either integrate into pre-existing production lines or work with equipment that is not produced by Gabler," explained Ryan Bruce, Business Development Manager at ESI Group. "IC.IDO allows you to assess a production operation within the VR system. You can reach into your production line, install a part with a tool and perform operations as if the facility were real."
He added, "In real life, however, this might be dangerous due to moving equipment and pinch hazards. With IC.IDO, you can use a human mannequin or perform the operations yourself to find these hazards without risking your safety."
Interactive 3D Virtual Models allow for Development of Improved Ergonomics
Since the VR models from IC.IDO are to scale, it makes the program well suited for ergonomic assessments. Such is the case for packaging equipment manufacturer Bausch & Strobel. Their equipment must meet strict pharmaceutical industry and government standards. Additionally, each customer requires customized tools.
Previously, Bausch & Strobel built full-sized wooden prototypes to assess the ergonomics of their tools and operations. Now IC.IDO allows their designers to interact with the CAD models directly and make changes to the design on the spot. In fact, 98% of Bausch & Strobel's clients prefer assessing the product with the virtual mock-ups as opposed to the wooden ones.
"IC.IDO's reachability and visibility assessments are key to ergonomics, but many other software packages can do this. Where we shine is with interactivity. The ability to change the model on the fly is a great method for communication and is ideal when assessing ergonomics," detailed Ryan Bruce, Business Development Manager at ESI Group.
Wow Customers with Virtual Reality
"In general, sales teams like using VR. The ability to completely customize a presentation of a product for the person in front of them, with minimal effort, is key," said Ryan Bruce, Business Development Manager at ESI Group. "A tailored product presentation vs. a generic PowerPoint will make it much easier to get a targeted message to your customers. The sales team also likes to see customers interact with the product and get involved. It creates that WOW factor."
The immersive projection equipment can be packaged into a traveling case small enough to be taken as a carry-on. Once the sales person arrives, the equipment can be set up in less than 45 minutes.
Virtual Reality promises to improve product realization from design and production to maintenance and sales. Though it cannot replace the need for FEA and CFD simulations, the immersive nature of VR can highlight design flaws that other types of simulation would miss. And there is no denying that it would be very cool for everyone on a team to explore their designs in a life-size cave.
ESI Group has sponsored promotion of their IC.IDO software suite on ENGINEERING.com. They have no editorial input to this post - all opinions are by Shawn Wasserman
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