Virtual Reality, Virtual Iron
Advanced technologies are saving time, cutting costs and resulting in better-designed products and facilities.
The Caterpillar Technical Center in Mossville, Ill., is home to Caterpillar's Immersive Visualization Center. The Center houses a four-screen, three-dimensional, walk-in virtual reality system comprised of three walls, a floor and 12 high-definition digital 3D projectors. With a useable work area over 20' wide and 10' high and deep, it is one of the largest such systems in North America.
Immersive visualization allows product development teams to identify any human-machine interaction issues in the early stages of design, well before prototypes are built. For example, a service technician can use this technology to "work" on a virtual machine and perform a service procedure while evaluating ergonomics. Immersive visualization is also used by manufacturing engineers to "walk through" virtual factories to assess line layout and material flow in the facility. This early exploration enables multiple design alternatives to be evaluated, allowing the engineers to identify an optimal design.
Immersive Visualization is key to the continuing effort to broaden the impact and expand the applicability of virtual product development (VPD) at Caterpillar. "We want to be able to make decisions before a design is committed to iron," explains Dr. Valerie Wiest, division manager in the Product Development & Global Technology Division at the Tech Center. "The goal of virtual product development is to fully validate designs using computer models as prototypes. Caterpillar saves on development time and cost, and the customer gets a better machine, faster."
Dr. Wiest and her VPD deployment team envision a day when virtual reality technology will be used at all Caterpillar design facilities as a standard tool for product and process development. Immersive visualization engineers Galen Faidley and Abhishek Seth are making that vision a reality. "We have launched this capability in several facilities in the U.S., Europe and Asia," Faidley noted. "It's a great time to be a VPD engineer at Caterpillar."