Industrialisation 4.0 is upon us, and virtual reality (VR) is one of the key technologies shaping the future of the manufacturing industry. VR has truly become a necessary enterprise, with the space expected to grow from £641 million in 2018 to £4.4 billion in 2023.
While many associate VR with entertainment media like video games, the technology has upended almost all global industries. Aside from VR applications in marketing, education and healthcare, VR is also now disrupting industrial design and engineering.
With the advent of emerging technologies, manufacturing and rendering industrial services for the military, aerospace, medical, and automotive industries have grown more complex than ever. While some companies leverage CAD and BIM programs to keep up with these complexities, they are often not able to use them to their full capacity. The integration of VR — and augmented reality (AR), along with it — in factories and product design is enabling manufacturers to simplify these processes, increase quality, and improve safety standards all around the globe.
VR has reduced the time spent on revisions in product design. A study published on Advances in Computer Science Research shows that VR has had a huge impact on industrial design, providing more intuitive ways to produce new things. While the 3D modelling of product designs are nothing new, they don’t communicate the actual vision of the industrial designers — hence, taking up more time in back and forth revisions. With VR, the clients and manufacturers can scrutinise the design more meticulously by seeing it from a holistic point of view that can situate the future product in real-world settings. This not only saves time, but also increases the overall quality of the end product.
From concept to detail design, VR enables an open environment where actual product quality can match the rendered models. This is especially crucial in industries where there is no room for error. VR can be used in the design process to give a more accurate depiction and immersive creation of 3D models. When design engineers can see their models from different angles, it gives them a better idea of how to refine and improve them. Designers can even team up to ensure the highest quality results with tools like the ActiveWall system, which uses wall and floor projections that enable designers to collaborate within that unique space. And in the future, engineers from around the world can work together as if they’re in the same room through VR technology, helping push down costs and time spent developing any single product.
One of the more exciting applications of VR has been in the marketing and sales space. Customers and stakeholders can now experience a service or product before it is even made through stunning visualisations, all conveniently found within a headset. This gives businesses who use VR for marketing and sales a competitive edge, as they can let viewers see simulations of a product in an uniquely fun and engaging way.
Also, there is no need to rent large venues when a simple booth with a VR stand will do — whether that is at a trade show marketing to businesses or the mall interacting with the everyday consumer. Even if the audience was not originally interested in a product, the novelty of VR will likely draw them to the display. Case in point, All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently announced they are refreshing their 777-300ER business class cabins and we, at Mbryonic, had the pleasure of replicating the cabin in virtual reality to showcase at their launch events. Guests were able to experience the new seat’s features, as they could virtually walk around, open stowage doors, order food and even change lighting conditions. This is a great example of how VR can be a powerful marketing tool.
VR Training is becoming increasingly popular in the engineering sector. This is because this kind of immersive training gives students or employees a realistic understanding of the risks that come with the job. For instance, companies like Linde have started to use VR simulations for trucker safety, by training them on how to unload hazardous liquid gases in a controlled virtual environment. Linde has been known in the VR space as the pioneer of virtual plant safety that prepares workers for high-risk environments. This method allows them to familiarise themselves with the work even before the plant is built, and then prepares them for incidents that would otherwise be impossible to recreate in the real world without any risks.
While many think of VR as a slow investment technology, VR applications in industrial design and engineering are fast becoming the key to gaining a competitive advantage in manufacturing. Of course, product simulation shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. Further customisation and development for specific OEM requirements are needed in order to fit VR into the workflow.
Article prepared by Allie Cooper
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