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Development of a virtual reality technology for sme's in the "virtual prototyping" of components and assemblies

Objective



There are more than 2,400,000 [1] licenced users of Computer Aided Design (CAD) packages in Europe, covering virtually all industrial sectors for the design and development of new components, assemblies and products. The application of this design tool within engineering and manufacturing sectors is now virtually complete, with 250,000[1]of the licenced users in Europe being manufacturing SMEs. CAD's current use amongst SMEs ranges from it's basic application as a tool to describe geometric form, creating engineering drawings, to its fuller use as a communication medium for component texture, colour and function. The Core Group of Proposers are representative of this range of applications. Since the advent of lower priced component and sub-assembly sourcing into European supply chains from Pacific Rim and former Eastern Bloc countries, domestic manufacturing SMEs, unable to compete on price alone, have started to differentiate their offering by providing increased added value to the first tier suppliers and OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) they serve. This has tended to be acheived through the development of 'prefered supplier' relationships, where a supplier integrates into a customers design and development process, often taking on the detailing and prototyping of a part and in some cases even it's complete design to a performance specification and price constraint. The key to this approach, is better communication of design intent and detail, enabling suppliers to work closely with their clients, as an integrated team to develop concepts into detail designs and then on to prototyping and performance validation. A tool that is already revolutionising concept visualisation and interaction, is Virtual Reality (VR). It is being used today, to communicate concept designs between client and supplier in the construction, off shore and ship building sectors. Unfortunately, its use is restricted to sectors such as these, where very high value capital products/projects, are able to justify the high cost of accessing the technology. VR applications characteristically run on high end hardware, costing 500kECU or more, and require high levels of expertise in their execution. Low cost access of high quality and accurate VR visualisation techniques, by SME component and sub-assembly suppliers, is currently not possible. Therefore, the industrial objective of the proposed RTD is to provide European SMEs, involved in manufacturing supply chains, with a virtual prototyping system featuring a high degree of visual quality and system accuracy, that can be used on the existing low cost CAD systems and operated by engineering designers, not real time software programmers. This will enable a reduction in time to market by typically 20%, achieved through better client-supplier communication and by reducing the need for physical prototyping. This could create a cost saving of typically 500 ECU for every physical prototype saved up to 75% of the 160MECU pa [2] currently spent by European designers on models and physical prototypes, could be saved. This innovative design tool will have the following advantages over the current design route by enabling: Designers and their customers to interact, directly with design data; Real-time evaluation of a design from any physical perspective; Evaluation in context, by immersing the model in a virtual environment; Real time modifications to be made to the virtual prototype, including colour, texture, geometric and material attributes; Closer product fit with target market, by facilitating 10 to 20 times the design iterations than are currently cost effective to make; Virtual prototype performance prediction, through the provision of an interface with FEA packages. Production of data files to be committed directly CAD-CAM files for the CNC machining of tooling.

Coordinator

Prosolvia Clarus AB
Address
1,Gardavagen 1
412 50 Göteborg
Sweden

Participants (9)

Aerospace Composite Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom
Address
Airport Road
LU2 9NQ Luton
Albyn of Stonehaven Ltd.
United Kingdom
Address
Spurryhillock Industrial Estate
AB3 2NH Aberdeen - Stonehaven
Bridon PLC
United Kingdom
Address
Carr Hill
DN4 8DG Doncaster - South Yorkshire
Ericsson Mobile Communications AB
Sweden
Address
16,Ole Römersväg 16
22370 Lund
LIPTOOL Ltd
United Kingdom
Address
Station Road 142-144
PE15 8NH March
Production Engineering Research Association - PERA
United Kingdom
Address
Nottingham Road
LE13 0PB Melton Mowbray - Leicestershire
Sifam Ltd
United Kingdom
Address
Woodland Road 7
TQ2 7AY Torquay
Spatial Technology GmbH.
Germany
Address
77,Hehnerholt 77
41069 Mönchengladbach
Worldmark Computers Ltd.
United Kingdom
Address
50,South Street 50
CB3 7DZ Cambridge