DirectIndustry e-Magazine - # 21 – VIRTUAL REALITYDirectIndustry e-Magazine


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.

Cover picture: Tim Wallace Ambient Life

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VR glasses fast becoming a valuable new industrial tool and the central pillar of tomorrow’s factories.
© Tim Wallace Ambient Life

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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...

Computer-Aided Virtual Environment allows engineers to examine and test the components and assembly processes of a product before prototype construction.
© Tim Wallace Ambient Life

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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 of CAVE (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

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

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.

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  • Courtesy of Faraday Future


    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.

    Target Zero Defect

    This year, Faraday Future introduced the FFZERO1 intelligent electric vehicle, developed with 3DEXPERIENCE.

    • 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.

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    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, sensitive skin, 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

    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…

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    Andrew Wheeler

    Andrew Wheeler writes about science, technology, engineering and 3D printing for various media, from Virginia in the USA .

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    Abigail Saltmarsh

    Abigail Saltmarsh is a freelance journalist with 25 years’ experience for industry publications (Packaging Europe) and national magazines (The New York Times, International Herald Tribune).

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    Jamie Carter

    Jamie Carter is a journalist based in Wales, who writes about technology for the South China Morning Post, Mashable, MSN, the BBC Sky At Night, and Korean Air’s Morning Calm.

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