Virtual reality is here and we’ll have to get used to it. Initially touted as the future of video gaming, cinema or even journalism, VR headsets are now popping up in every sector. Virtual reality is fast becoming a vital tool for industry, enabling the simulation of production processes before actual launch and facilitating skills transfer and training of personnel.
VR figured prominently in futuristic movies for years. Now, it’s going beyond science fiction.
Beyond immersive video gaming, virtual reality (VR) is being used for skills transfer and hands-on experiences that could be vital tools for industry.
Virtual-reality glasses are everywhere, with the likes of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR grabbing headlines as the future of video gaming. While the expense...
How does virtual reality help design, engineering and manufacturing professionals anticipate and manage the quality of a product before it is launched? Do digital prototypes of an entire production line confer enough benefits to warrant the expense, or are they an unnecessary luxury?
When planning a manufacturing facility, the ideal first step is to simulate and test as much as possible before investing in construction of the physical plant.
This typically requires close interaction among different departments, including shared CAD data and visualizing point cloud data. Understanding on-site challenges also is facilitated by the use of physical models based on real-world data.
Designers in nearly every industry use CAD data for architecture, construction, design, engineering and production. Jaguar and others go further by using virtual reality (VR) systems for manufacturing and engineering.
The Jaguar Land Rover CAVE
The main benefit ofCAVE (Computer-Aided Virtual Environment) is that it allows engineers to examine and test the components and assembly processes of a digital Jaguar before prototype construction. Brian Waterfield, VR technical lead at the Jaguar Land Rover Center in England says:
We have to go on a journey with our designers and engineers and introduce this new technology to them. If we want to build a prototype of an interior [of a vehicle], it takes about 12 weeks, but in the virtual world we can do it almost instantly and change things around as needed.
A more complicated virtual reality application is a software system called Visionary Render from Virtalis. It renders complex VR models in real-time stereoscopic 3-D. The update rates are very high and the latency is low.
Virtalis managing director David Cockburn-Price stated that:
Visionary Render is a game changer for engineers handling big and complex data, and it allows them to get inside and interact with their data in a virtual world at their desktop and in a big display environment.
VR for Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
Image courtesy of Lanner
According to the company, there are several benefits to using Visionary Render.
Interactive and immersive capabilities enhance understanding
A unique, semi-transparent 3D user interface reinforces 3D immersion
Seamless management of massive, complex CAD data sources
Collaboration in a single VR environment
Significant load time reduction
Lanner, which creates predictive simulation and optimization technology, partnered with Virtalis in 2014 to integrate VR collaboration systems into its array of services for clients all over the world.
Creating training and maintenance programs, and design reviews for networked designers and engineers around the world could be a major step forward. Raytheon beta-tested Visionary Render and used the VR system extensively for end-to-end project management.
When individuals and small groups working on a project from different locations can share large amounts of complex CAD data, obvious advantages ensue. But if systems like Visionary Render can help them solve daunting design and engineering problems, they could be the best next step.
Courtesy of Virtalis
Beta-tested by industry heavyweights including Raytheon, Vestas and Rolls-Royce, Visionary Render also is used by organizations like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to push into new areas of nuclear fusion research.
Tim Williams-Wood, manufacturing technology program manager of virtual manufacturing at Rolls Royce, advocated the use of Visionary Render for businesses:
One of our key issues at Rolls-Royce is that we’re a global operation. We have over 85 manufacturing facilities and we have multiple engineering sites across continents ranging from the USA and Canada, to the Far East. The opportunity to collaborate offers us an opportunity to ensure we have different design teams centered on the same solutions. Discussing work through these visualization centers is very cost effective to the organization. It also allows us to open this up to key suppliers and customers to collaborate with visual information to receive more dynamic input and feedback.
Whether it’s currently considered a real need or an unnecessary luxury, virtual reality is on its way to becoming the next-gen factory planning solution.
After years existing on supercomputers, cognitive computing platforms are being made available on the cloud. The consequences for embedded systems and the Industrial Internet of Things could be huge.
The cloud has been making raw computing power available in virtual environments for some years, but how about on-tap...
How do engineers convert 3D models into virtual reality data? From VR apps to VR on the web, DirectIndustry e-magazine offers users a few leads.
Today, gamers prefer virtual reality because the level of rendering is high, even though the polygon count is low. This makes for less latency—the time lag between the gamer’s physical movement and the digital response—and a better gaming experience. But industrial applications require the detail that high polygon count confers to 3-D models, an advantage over VR. For example, a complete manufacturing CAD package for a factory won’t work on current gaming headsets. The model will look good, but isn’t accurate enough to make engineering decisions. However, converting 3-D model data into VR data is possible. It mainly requires a great VR workstation with the right tools.
But there is no definitive VR data format. Each brand of headset comes with a proprietary translator and operating system. However, one company enables engineers to instantly convert 3-D models into viewable VR for their headsets, as well as to modify them.
IrisVR wasfounded specifically to develop VR applications for architecture, design and engineering. It offers an app that converts 3-D models for viewing in VR.
Select your headset, such as Oculus’s DK1 or DK2, Samsung’s Gear, Microsoft’s HoloLens, Google’s Cardboard or HTC’s Vive.
Then enter your 3-D file formats (SKP, RVT, ARC, 3DS, C4D, maya, 3DM, VWX, FBX and OBJ)
Finally, select your current graphics processing unit or graphics card from a list.
Developers also can use emulator software to create apps for the device. The emulator runs in a custom Hyper-V VM and requires Visual Studio 2015.
If you don’t want to download an external program like IrisVR, SketchFab allows its community members to view 3-D models in VR on the Internet.
This WebVR-compatible tool makes it possible to view uploaded 3-D models in VR on laptop or desktop computers. Using Google Chrome with WebVR, hit the VR button and you’re ready to use HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to view your chosen model.
Sketchfab’s VR capabilities also can be accessed on mobile phones using a WebGL-enabled browser. Place your phone in a Cardboard VR viewer to view any model by opening it and clicking the VR button.
With its Target Zero Defect, the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform is now considered by global automakers to be the best tool for gaining efficiency.
The 3DEXPERIENCE software package includes applications for creating 3D models and virtual-reality presentations, as well as handling real-time design, engineering and manufacturing data.Models can be used from the shop floor to top management. Additional applications allow collaborative connections between internal and external users, from design, marketing and sales to outside suppliers and agencies.
Many of the world’s leading automakers already use this platform—BMW, Porsche, Ford, Chrysler, Fiat and Hyundai. Even electric car innovators Tesla Motors and Faraday Future are among the clients.
The Target Zero Defect solution fosters results that are right the first time. Its data repository supports predictions of budget and development cycles, ensuring accuracy and saving time and money.
The Smart, Safe & Connected function offers an integrated environment for testing and validating mechanical, electronic and software vehicle systems.
Virtual-reality design shaved months off the traditional process of creating a physical model of the car and sitting in it to optimize function and ergonomics. According to the company, the platform could enable the creation of an entirely new interior in a single day.
Jaguar Land Rover also has employed the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in its business transformation program to attain much higher annual efficiency gains than the industry’s traditional goal of 4%.
Paul Davies, director of the company’s product development operation, reported that after one year, the benefits were approximately “three times what we originally planned.”
Over a full three- or four-year program life, he expects to see engineering productivity gains of over 20% and time savings of up to 40% for certain product development processes.
Vehicle Program Intelligence
The latest development on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was announced last June—Vehicle Program Intelligence. This incorporates tighter integration of Dassault’s EXALEAD PLM Analytics product for more complex modeling and real-time data analytics to improve project management. Its richer engineering data set enhances decision-making and reveals dead ends more quickly. It also facilitates corrective action, accelerates time-to-market and provides a single view for all users. One key aspect is improved EXALEAD dashboards to present key performance indicators that can index and access billions of records of any type for better data aggregation.
Cobotics is no longer limited to small-service robots. At last June’s Automatica fair in Munich, Germany, Comau introduced AURA, a new line of industrial cobots with high-payload capacity. DirectIndustry e-magazine spoke with marketing director Maurizio Cremonini about this world premiere.
DI e-magazine: Comau showcased industrial cobots featuring a very high payload. What are the intended applications?
Maurizio Cremonini: At Automatica, we introduced the AURA concept [Advanced Use Robotic Arm]. It was applied to a robot with a payload of 110 kg, the highest on the market, for applications in the automotive sector. A demo showed a battery being installed in a Maserati. The cobot placed the heavy battery in the car and then a human worker and the cobot connected the wires.
DI e-magazine: What kind of technology did you implement to create cobots that combine high payload and safety?
MC: The AURA robot is equipped with very sensitive vision, contact and proximity sensors that allow it to detect any kind of obstacle, including workers. They are installed under a protective foam skin. With its laser scanner and proximity sensors, for example, AURA can dynamically perceive the position of a person and reduce its speed to a pace that is compatible with the human worker. If a worker touches the robot’s soft,sensitiveskin, it will stop or move back. Force sensors react in case there is major abnormal physical effort applied by the robot.
DI e-magazine: Can the cobot also predict human movement?
MC: The robot’s vision system transmits data on the worker’s position, and software evaluates movement. This predictive system enables the robot to modify its trajectory, if needed.
DI e-magazine: Is the robot affected by vibrations in the factory?
MC: The main problem with previous technologies was that vibrations could make the robot less sensitive or stop, even when not touched. Vibrations are common during production. We think a factory with no floor vibration is impossible. A vibration control system cannot really isolate the robot from ambient vibrations. Our cobot technology is not affected by external vibrations and the cobot can still be operational in this kind of environment.
Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…