WE/AR Blog Virtual Reality in Engineering – How Can It Change This Industry?
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Virtual Reality in Engineering – How Can It Change This Industry?

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By Veronika Petrenko
13 min read
31.01.2022
VR In Engineering

VR in engineering creates new work situations and opens up doors to new possibilities. But, at the same time, it comes with several challenges that industry experts need to be aware of.

Thanks to VR, engineers can actually predict and solve problems before they arise. Not only will this create the possibility for a streamlined manufacturing process, but it also reduces the cost and time needed for design and production. This means that the company will be using all its resources to maximize efficiency.

At WE/AR, we understand the potential of this technology, and we’ve worked with lots of engineers and product designers to explore its impact and see how it can change the design and production processes. So keep on reading to learn more about this topic.

Benefits of Using Virtual Reality In Engineering

In engineering, VR is used in several product design and production cycle stages. Designers and architects first use it to assess the potential, strengths, and flaws of a design before actually working on a product. Later on, they can test how a product works and examine its details before allocating the company’s resources to produce this particular product, saving the company time and money.

Engineers are also allowed to test a product in a safe environment. As a matter of fact, the use of VR in engineering allows engineers to create dangerous and hazardous situations that are usually challenging or even impossible to create in real life. As a result, engineers can make all the necessary adjustments that would allow them to tweak a product to perfection before it hits the production and assembly lines.

The benefits don’t stop here, and there’s so much to say about how VR engineering has become a niche on its own. In the following section, we’ll explain all the benefits and advantages that virtual reality can offer in the engineering realm.

Visualizing A Product for Better Understanding

Mechanism VR
Image from shutterstock.com

Virtual reality software and hardware products open multiple doors to designers, architects, and engineers to visualize and test a product to its full potential. By showing all the possible details, any flaws can be detected and then changed or repaired to make sure that this product is serving its purpose to the fullest.

Unlike other technologies, VR can highlight more details and show the interferences that affect the way a product functions. This allows specialists to fix a potential problem faster or even avoid it in the first place. In addition, data is quickly changed into an interactive design that can be examined and utilized by designers, architects, and engineers that shows all the details that might be easily missed in a 2D design.

All the complex details are viewed and altered in real-time in an interactive 3D design. This data-rich environment provides engineers with lots of information that help them better understand the potential of a product and how it can be used to solve a specific problem.

At the same time, VR engineering allows non-industry specialists to better understand what a product can do. It provides easy-to-understand data that all stakeholders can relate to, even if they don’t work in engineering.

Identifying Issues and Fixing Them Before They Appear

Testing VR
Image from shutterstock.com

Whether it’s electric, biomedical, or construction engineering, VR can identify potential problems in the design process before a product is actually produced. This kind of data will help designers, architects, and engineers alter the design and production plan to reach better results.

VR engineering data shows what can go wrong before it actually does. In the case of installations, VR can show where to better install HVAC pipes instead of facing a problem when it’s time to actually finish the construction of a building. It can show how smart prosthetics affect the balance and movement of whoever is using them to better create a comfortable and practical design.

If a design seems flawless on paper, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it can be so in real life. And this is where VR in engineering comes to play. It creates this real-life experience with a simulation that resembles how things will actually feel and look once a product is produced or finished, allowing those working on it to see all the problems that might arise when the product is finished and used.

At the same time, thanks to VR, several parties can have access to this real-time data to better understand and fix a problem. Virtual reality creates accessible and easy-to-understand information that multiple departments and individuals can work with in order to tweak a product until it’s ready to be brought to life. It creates the ultimate coordination between the design, engineering, and production teams.

Saving Time and Money

Prototyping VR
Image from shutterstock.com

Prototypes are created to help test a product and see how it works. But there are some problems in prototypes that virtual reality can efficiently solve.

First, prototypes actually cost time and money. Even though you’re not fully utilizing the company’s resources to produce the final product, you still have a dedicated team, resources, and a production line to create a single prototype based on the initial design.

Once the prototype is created, it can be tested in various situations. This means that the design team will create several scenarios to test the potential of the product, and some, if not all of them, can potentially damage the prototype. In this case, another one should be produced to continue the testing process. More money and time are to be utilized, and this is the second problem.

Finally, in some cases, it’s impossible to create hazardous situations to test a specific product without subjecting the company’s employees and machines to danger. Not only will these testing settings ruin several products, but they might also lead to several liability issues.

However, with virtual reality engineering applications, these problems can be easily solved. VR creates a real-like 3D model that testers can easily feel and manipulate to fully examine it without wasting any of the company’s resources. Moreover, the time spent on changing and altering a VR prototype is not comparable to the time and money needed to recreate a real-life prototype for testing purposes.

Virtual reality in engineering allows impossible situations to become possible. Designers and engineers can use any data to create a highly unlikely but still possible scenario to guarantee that the product will live up to its potential. As a result, several stakeholders can see how a specific product works in the safest setting without subjecting any of the company’s resources to danger or waste.

Improving Various Internal Design and Engineering Reviews

Testing Team VR
Image from shutterstock.com

Early on, VR will help the design team in the design review process before proceeding to the next step of production. The design or testing team will check the current status of a design against a checklist of requirements that need to be met in order to evaluate the real outcome of using this particular design.

Using VR engineering applications, the design and engineering teams can do several things to improve the design review process. For example, a particular step can be skipped or altered to see how it affects the final product. Design and engineering reviewers will be able to share their individual feedback, and this information will be gathered to evaluate how a product will perform.

The digital feedback is then quickly shared across several teams, where each one will make the necessary adjustments to guarantee a better result. Virtual reality provides useful data that all participants in the design and production process can understand. This type of tangible data that the reviewers can see and touch will help them create a better product with potentially no issues whatsoever.

VR is used in design and engineering reviews to check that all preliminary requirements are met, multiple teams allocation is properly handled, and risk management and production assessment are conducted. The design review process is divided into several processes to test that the final product is ready by stating the objectives, collecting feedback, discussing it with various team members, and finally wrapping up the results.

Proper Final Product Testing

Just like testing a prototype, virtual reality is used to test a real product when it’s finally produced. Technicians and engineers are allowed to see how a situation will actually feel like before installing a real product, assessing all the risks that can be encountered in real life.

From testing in the automotive industry to the installation processes on a construction site, virtual reality simulations will create a safer environment to do things. It allows the team to assess the potential risks and reach better solutions of doing the same step without subjecting the team to danger.

At the same time, virtual reality creates an immersive training experience for testers to see how to react in a potentially hazardous situation without being subject to one. This safe training environment offers multiple benefits to different stakeholders.

For instance, designers and engineers can actually see that the product they’ve worked on is functioning the way it should. People using this product will be able to test it to see if it meets the objectives of manufacturing. Finally, buyers can understand the full potential of a product and see how it functions.

In Which Niches VR Engineering Can Be Used

VR engineering can be used in several niches, starting from the early design phase to the final testing stage. It’s fast, accurate, and provides the necessary data to create a functional product that meets all the needed requirements. Here are some niches where VR engineering can change the way things are done.

  • VR can make automotive manufacturing streamlined, assisting global manufacturers in reconfiguring and optimizing assembly lines. Such global carmakers like Ford, Audi, BMW, and many others have already employed VR in the manufacturing development work.

With VR tech and virtual prototypes, there is no need to build physical prototypes, which simplifies and speeds up the development process. For example, Audi, the early adopter of VR tech, uses VR Holodeck to examine and assess the design of the new car models. The virtual environment with a 3D model of a car helps engineers and production experts get a very realistic view of the vehicle and its proportions, reducing the number of physical test models while saving money and time for development.

  • Smart city and urban planning are to benefit from virtual reality applications as this technology will deliver what the eye can’t see. With more detailed mapping and visualization, designers and architects can make better decisions while working with multiple surfaces, testing infrastructure, and seeing how constructed objects will finally look. VR is used to show how a new addition will affect various key locations and will create a set of possible outcomes that stakeholders will find useful when they’re evaluating the value of a specific project.

  • In aviation engineering, Rolls Royce is training its engineers to attach engine parts efficiently to reduce the time and cost needed to finish their high-quality aviation engines. VR creates a flexible and immersive training experience and allows testers to recreate the same scenario for more consistent results. The work-based training experience increases the learning curve and saves the company’s time and resources.

  • Mortenson Construction uses VR to help improve the work of the design team by bringing their designs to life. True-to-scale coordination allows the designers to see the potential of a real product and how it can look once it’s produced. At the same time, the company is using this technology to sell its products to investors and stakeholders who will appreciate the way a product functions, resulting in an improvement in the company’s overall workflow.

  • As the largest water company in the UK, Anglian Water is currently using VR to help detect any potential problems before they manifest. In this heavily-regulated industry, the company is working against a set of government requirements to create a better workflow with potentially zero issues. The design and production teams were able to use VR engineering applications to visualize problems and highlight the slightest details to create a flawless product once a project is delivered.

What Are the Costs of VR Engineering

Despite all the benefits of using VR in various engineering niches, this new technology comes with some costs that the company and stakeholders need to be aware of.

  • The initial cost of implementing virtual reality applications varies from one niche to another but can be too much for some small-class companies. Because it’s a competitive business, every company, regardless of its size, will be aiming to get ahead by implementing this technology. As a result, it needs to consider the cost of buying hardware and software tools to make VR accessible on the worksite.
  • The company has to set up a location for VR testing. Until today, most VR headsets need special space designs to allow users to experience a fully immersive experience without any hazards. In an industrial setting, the company has to allocate this space and make sure that it complies with all the necessary requirements.
  • There’s a learning curve to using virtual reality. The main benefit of using VR is that it creates an individualized experience, and this is exactly why it can be challenging for some users. Not all users are open to new concepts, and using VR might not appeal to some.

Conclusion

There’s always more to explore about the benefits of VR in engineering. At WE/AR, you’ll find a team of experts who will help you decide on the right VR solution to take your company to the next level.

Our experts have experience in designing and implementing VR applications for your specific situation. Using our help, you can explore the world of virtual reality according to your own requirements. The potential of VR is at your hands, just contact us.