By Ashini K Ekanayake
The concept of using virtual reality in developing new product designs and development has been bounced around for a while. This has come in the form of immersive environments which can provide designers and engineers with scalable and intuitive representations of designs and prototypes. This platform would allow for more realistic collaboration and increases customer confidence due to the improvement in the efficiency of the decision making process. In industries such as the automotive and aerospace, using virtual reality to visualize the product reduces the cost and time of developing physical prototypes, as well as reducing the potential costs of remaking the prototype due to errors.
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), is one of the only facilities today with an interactive virtual reality (VR) factory model which is an exact representation of the current machines available within the facility. Their “Digital Factory of the Future” aids users in solving difficult manufacturing challenges and develop new processes. The available large-scale VR display system also allows the institute to possess a useful interface for real time remote operation of robotics in harsh environments.
The display system projects 3D images of the factory on an 8’ x 14’ wall and floor screen. Users of the system will wear light weight shutter glasses fitted with motion trackers which monitor the user’s position and orientation, changing the on-screen images in real-time to match the user’s perspective. This real-time alteration allows the user to experience an extremely convincing sense of presence with the virtual factory. As a result, users can simply walk around or look under virtual equipment as if they were physically there. The system can be used for virtual prototyping, assembly testing and training, and displaying traditional two dimensional presentations when scale can benefit communications and teamwork.
As an alternative for these immersive experiences, CCAM uses head-mounted displays (HMDs). However, the larger scale VR-system is seen as more effective for collaborative work, since it is more comfortable for long work sessions. In addition, users can continue interacting with their surroundings and colleagues, rather than being cut off through the HMD.
These digital factories of the future will depend heavily on interconnected computers, advanced sensor technology and robotics. The difficulty of the interaction between all these entities will be difficult to conceptualize, making true collaboration more challenging. The CCAM system will create a more immersive experience which allows members to share concepts more easily through
Throughout the design and manufacturing world, virtual reality and augmented reality are playing an increasingly important role in enabling insights that result in better products, reduced costs, and faster time to market. Embracing these tools drives the advances that make manufacturing organizations successful.