OCT 2018


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NEWS 57 Composites and Virtual Reality Further, they are developing technologies that mix the virtual and actual manufacturing realms. Admixtures of the virtual and actual provide additional sets of applications. Typically catego- rized as "augmented reality (AR)" or "mixed reality," these applica- tions vary in the degree to which virtual and actual elements play a part. On one end of the spectrum, "augmented virtuality" might describe a 3D digital model onto which images and data from an actual component are superimposed, such as actual ply images from an automatic inspection system, showing deviations from the nominal of ply boundaries, fiber orientation and the like. On the other end, an augmented reality application might enable a technician to "see" under-surface laminate damage, accurately located on the actual component, as he or she looks through virtual glasses. e range of VR/AR technologies, their developmental and readiness levels, and their implementation and acceptance in the composites industry, widely vary. So, too, do the particular areas to which the technologies apply, from advanced virtual prototyping through the entire product lifecycle to maintenance and repair operations. e benefits that result from these VR/AR leaps include reduced development time, reduced risk, lower manufacturing costs and shorter cycle times. Immersive product prototyping Since the advent of computer-based virtual prototyping, compos- ites designers and manufacturers have saved untold development costs and enabled greater part optimization because a part design could be modified without the attendant time and cost penalties of building a new physical prototype. ose early adopters are enjoying even greater advantages as they implement VR proto- typing technologies. Lockheed Martin's (Bethesda, MD, US) foray into VR tech- nology, which the company is using for prototyping as well as evaluation of manufacturing processes, is housed at its Collabora- tive Human Immersive Laboratory (CHIL, Denver, CO, US). One of the largest such facilities in the world, CHIL reportedly saves Lockheed Martin more than US$10 million annually in its space- flight, satellite and solar-array programs, according to the lab's manager, Darin Bolthouse. Making the investment that much more financially sound, Lockheed Martin has kept costs down at CHIL in part by employing standard consumer devices, such as the Oculus VR (Menlo Park, CA, US) Rift headset. With computer-based CAD and simulation programs already providing sophisticated graphical representations, Bolthouse believes VR is the logical next step. "We've got this wealth of 3D data already out there," he points out. "e ability to bring that into an immersive VR environment allows our engineers to see that in full scale." CHIL includes two primary VR approaches, the first of which is used for VR prototyping. Called a CAVE (cave automatic virtual environment), this VR approach uses wall-sized displays to generate full-scale 3D models of components, systems or assem- blies that appear to "float" holographically in space as engineers view them through 3D glasses. e 3D images can be rotated and repositioned, giving the engineers the ability to view all aspects from any angle. Several other VR prototyping applications are employing a virtual reality system from the ESI Group (Paris, France) called IC.IDO. e company describes IC.IDO as a VR solution that combines "high-end visualization and real-time simulation of product behavior in its actual size." To produce its CAVE, the IC.IDO system includes stereoscopic projection hardware directed at multiple "powerwalls." Users wear 3D glasses to experience life- size renditions of the prototypes they are developing. Helmut Dietz, head of digital manufacturing at Bombardier Transportation (Montréal, QC, Canada), reports that the IC.IDO Virtual manufacturing floor Lockheed Martin's Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory enables partici- pants to assess manufacturing floor and equipment plans in a virtual environment before the company invests in the actual shop floor. Source: Lockheed Martin On-screen layup guidance Anaglyph's PlyMatch system displays the actual layup overlayed with virtual guidance. A technician views the layup and guidance on a monitor as he positions the next ply. Source: Systima Technologies

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