Product design and development can be a grueling and costly process when using a traditional approach. Prototypes are not cheap and may require completely new tools for each new design concept. However, with the advancement of virtual reality(VR) and 3D modeling software, manufacturers have the ability to test, re-test, and create new prototypes in a completely digital environment. Instead of having to actually manufacture each new prototype and run tests, the VR and 3D modeling software allows a manufacturer to test as many prototypes as they need, and test them all without ever having to create a physical component or product.
3D printing was one of the first upgrades to this expensive process. Having the ability to print a prototype overnight and have a completed structure in the morning was a tremendous step towards increasing the efficiency of designing and developing a new product. Yet 3D printing still presented some problems.
If a manufacturer didn’t have their own 3D printer, they needed to source the print from an outside entity. This can slow the process down to a tremendous degree. Furthermore, even if a manufacturer did have their own 3D printer, prints don’t always come out exactly how they were designed. If a printer malfunctioned overnight and the intended prototype turned out to be nothing more than a mass of plastic strands, not only has material gone to waste, but time was wasted as well.
Now, VR and 3D modeling software has taken the design and development of a prototype to the next level. A manufacturer can create a ‘functional’ prototype using this unbelievable software. The prototype can be tested just like a physical object would in real life. The computer would use advanced algorithms to determine whether or not the concept would function as intended or where errors occur.
Image by Dassault Systèmes Sourced from http://bit.ly/1oZeWzA
Not only can simulations be run, VR is becoming increasingly more advanced by the day. Some manufacturers are already finding a place for VR on the shop floor to let their employees go through the manufacturing process in a completely virtual setting. This allows the ergonomics of the build to be seen in real-time and allows a manufacturer to address any dangerous production points before employees get hands on with the actual build.
These advancements can have a dramatic impact on the manufacturer’s bottom line. Instead of spending money on costly prototypes, they can bring the entire process into the virtual world. They can improve their production line and help ensure their employees will be working in a comfortable environment. VR and 3D modeling software is just another evolutionary step for the manufacturing industry. One that will continue to benefit the industry and every business that investigates new ways technology can improve their operation.