Visualization and virtual reality (VR) platforms have taken on a wide range of design tasks beyond simply showing the visual details of a product. Visualization has become a collaborative tool for showing the details of the object in a stage when it can be easily altered by its community of customers, vendors, and partners. As well as depicting the product visually, virtual reality tools contain layers of data, from materials to component pricing. This gives the design team and collaborators an opportunity to see how changes impact everything from strength and appearance to cost and manufacturability.

Although the technology is not new, it is easy to see how technology advances have worked together to make this “new” again.  As with many technologies, the “consumerization” of 3D CAD capabilities as well as visualization and virtual reality display and viewing products have made this technology more accessible to more people.  Increased interest and usage then also drives the prices down making them even more accessible as time goes on, especially to small companies.

Rob Spiegel, a Design News editor, points out the many advantages of virtual reality:

  • A VR model can be manipulated – Attributes of the object can be moved in real time before you build a real prototype.
  • A design team can use VR to try out attributes that usually are not brought to the object until the physical stage.
  • In VR, you can see the effect of using different materials.
  • VR is well fitted for collaboration. A team has the ability to review and discuss design together, identifying areas of concern. Engineers have started using the HoloLens VR tool from Microsoft to examine and alter an object. With the lens on you can see the 3D object and interact with it.
  • VR tools help engineers break out of their traditional isolation, when previously, the industrial engineer and the designer usually worked in silos.
  • VR gives the non-engineer an accurate view of the object.
  • VR software is tied into all iterations that are getting shared – you make a change in one direction, and it makes the change everywhere.
  • One of the most powerful uses of visualization and virtual reality is in sales presentations.

>Read more at Design News, 5/24/16

Virtual Reality: The New Prototype Is Digital