The physics of materials is endlessly fascinating, especially when engineers and designers have to incorporate structural, geometrical and budgetary restraints into their collaborative creations. The real-time behavior of flexible and rigid plastic parts concerns manufacturers, engineers and product design teams around the world.
Virtual reality (VR) should be viewed with extreme skepticism at times, especially when it comes to engineering applications. Although it remains to be seen if a consumer version of VR or augmented reality will take off in the coming years, industrial applications should be explored. After all, in sectors like 3D printing, the hype cycle yielded zero consumer applications. Now VR is far more connected to gaming, so there's a possibility that something like PlayStation VR could take off.
But engineers are always looking to build their own versions of hardware or are generally fiscally conservative about purchasing new tech that carries with it a lot of oversaturation and hype generated by the current unholy alliance between technology giants and the tech press.
So when ESI Group announces a product like IC.IDO 10.2, it’s interesting to see a cross-section of material physics simulation merge with virtual prototyping.
3D virtual environments gained some popularity before the turn of the last decade. But now, major industrial manufacturers employ VR to visualize digital prototypes of what will later turn into physical products. The benefits of avoiding the cost of redundant physical prototypes and the inherent errors that may occur against the digital design are avoided with virtual prototyping.
Collaborative and collective decision-making is easier to facilitate when specialists and nonspecialists can see the object digitally either on-site or remotely.
Models in realscale and realtime
Used by design and engineering giants like Audi AG, Bausch+ Stroebel, Boeing, Bombardier, Ford, and Renault among others, it’s easy to begin to see how having the ability to demonstrate and walk others through large and complicated assemblies made of thousands of parts is supremely beneficial and enjoyable.
Here’s a quick video of IC.IDO in action at Caterpillar:
This module allows users to simulate how multiple rigid components will behave at the same time. When you can immerse yourself in virtual versions of products in IC.IDO 10.2, the ability to manipulate and interact with them gives you room for collaboratively viewing assemblies and joining sequences in a simulated environment that is ready for review by anyone and everyone. From service specialists, other product design teams and production specialists, everyone can get involved from the idea-concept phase to every stage of design. The real-time simulation includes witnessing the effects of inertia, collision and gravity when handling your virtual prototypes and models.
Another cool capability that helps spread the information around in an easy way is the manner in which IC.IDO can save motion sequences for use with other CAD software, increasing the odds that annoying and perpetual interoperability issues will not get in the way of sharing, collaborating and receiving feedback from consultants or a distributed team.
Traditional multi-body dynamics (MBD) tools can really be a headache for companies to teach and train the uninitiated, and ESI programmed the IDO.SolidMechanics module to be foundational and fundamental in what it hopes will be a new phase of ubiquitous real-time simulation and virtual prototyping.
The next new module to cover is the IDO.Elastic module. Simulating the real-time effects of different forces on rigid materials is great, but what about elastic materials?
Checking out how different cables, hose and other parts that have elastic material properties move in realtime is essential to the level of thoroughness needed by major engineering companies to understand deficiencies in virtual prototype designs. The IDO.Elastic module does pretty much the same thing as IDO.SolidMechanics except with elastic components.
The solver is the same one from IDO.SolidMechanics, and IDO.Elastic can perform some pretty amazing maneuvers: real-time simulation of individual flexible parts, as well as full-scale real-time simulation of full cable branches and wire harnesses.
Simulating operations as well as assembly and disassembly give collaborators the ability to detect inefficiencies in a cost-effective way, as long as they understand the software and the computer-aided virtual environment(CAVE).
This benefits manufacturers by enabling them to anticipate the best way to organize, source, route and choose elastic components as each is simulated within a specified physical space. This real-time simulation allows design layout to be optimized realistically and consistently from conception and early development right through design validation and physical production.
ESI IC.IDO is available in a desktop version, which brings up an interesting point about the state of VR and whether or not the days of the CAVE are in danger of becoming a thing of the past.
Given the recent push for virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality to become mainstream consumer items (boosted by enthusiasm and some literally sickening hype), the question to answer is: Do CAVE stations allow for easier virtual prototyping than headsets like the HTC Vive?
For end-to-end prototyping, where every process and stage is assessed and linked to the effectiveness and outcome of a product from conception, design, engineering and manufacturing, the benefits of virtual prototyping are obvious.
But virtual prototyping in CAVE stations and virtual reality headsets are wildly different in terms of cost, equipment, accessibility, maintenance and performance. CAVEs are far more expensive, require a much more involved setup and are expensive to maintain. Not such a big deal for Fortune 500 companies, but what about democratizing the power of virtual prototyping for smaller businesses and start-ups looking to shake things up?
There aren’t too many reasons to compare CAVE and headsets like HTC Vive. The word is still out, but engineering software giant Dassault Systèmes started its “Never Blind in VR” project two years ago with the express intention of solving the main conundrum of virtual reality headsets as they compare to CAVEs.
I can't see you with this thing on, let's go in the CAVE
An HTC Vive headset cuts you off from everyone else in the room. Depending on how you feel about your coworkers, this may or may not be a good thing for you personally, but for designing and engineering a project collaboratively, it just doesn’t work.
A CAVE system uses a projector, and everyone can grab a pair of 3D glasses and see whatever 3D data that's plastered on the screen.
A team at Dassault Systèmes solved this issue by using the accidentally super-versatile Microsoft Kinect camera to take a scan of the space around the user, and turning the HTC Vive into more of an augmented reality experience. The HTC Vive user became free to walk around the room without fear of tripping over anyone. The Vive Pre, which was introduced at CES 2016, has a camera embedded into the headset that gives users the advantage of experiencing the capabilities that CAVE users have with their 3D glasses.
3D glasses are certainly less bulky, but it's interesting that Dassault Systèmes is partnering with HTC Vive to promote a paradigm shift aimed at changing the favor of industrial engineering entities from CAVEs to virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive.
“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.”- Mattie Stepanek