3D visualisation is route to efficient design

Traditionally, businesses have produced advanced prototypes to test and trained staff in real environments, but now the advent of 3D visualisation technology enables them to do so more effectively, quickly and at low cost

Design and testing processes are typically expensive and take a great deal of time. Across industries, vast amounts of money are injected into research and development, testing and creating new designs based on the results.

Such ways of working have caused strategic problems due to the costs and time involved, and firms have witnessed competitors with bigger budgets gaining an edge.

The growth of 3D visualisation systems enables companies of all sizes to change these processes. By 2020, organisations around the world will spend $1.6 billion a year on the technology, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets.

The technology relies on affordable advanced processing power, design tools and virtual reality (VR) technology, enabling teams to visualise and virtually test designs, practically perfecting a product before building it.

Numerous industries are already benefiting. In the automotive sector, businesses have typically designed and built advanced prototypes out of a variety of materials. They would then adapt and rebuild them based on the results, doing so potentially thousands of times until a product is ready to mass-produce.

Car companies based in the UK and US, manufacturing globally, use 3D visualisation to enable that process to happen virtually.

Mike McDaniel, marketing manager at Mechdyne, an advanced technology solutions firm, says: “They can find flaws before spending time developing car prototypes, dramatically lowering the cost, and increasing their speed of production and testing.”

In the architectural and construction industry, businesses usually build infrastructure based on complex drawings. Using 3D visualisation, they can now lift their blueprints from 2D drawings to create a virtual environment they can walk around before it is even constructed.

In such an environment, one person can wear a headset to experience a particular design virtually, while colleagues in the room can see on a big screen what the person is looking at.

The University of Salford is doing just this to serve a variety of businesses. It uses a large 3D visualisation display system, called a PowerWall in its THINKlab design space, for researchers and designers to see their projects at life size. Its use encompasses everything from city and building design to aircraft manufacturing and space exploration.

“In the past, design teams used visual aids, such as 2D drawings, PowerPoint slides and rendered animation of 3D models, to conduct design reviews of complex projects,” says Professor Terrence Fernando, director of the THINKlab.

“Using the PowerWall, positioned within an ergonomically designed team environment, each member can present their concepts and make sure everyone has a clear idea about the emerging design. Possible faults can be identified and flagged by various engineers from their own perspective, avoiding any possible clashes later in the product life cycle.”

In the oil and gas industry, large companies are also commonly using the technology to create models of the geology of an area before drilling.

Across sectors, there is also the opportunity to use 3D visualisation to improve training. Instead of education taking place in a fixed environment, which is uninspired and does not represent a real situation, VR experiences can be created around real environments.

3D visualisation can vastly shorten time to market, while slashing the cost of development

The military already uses the technology to test how people react in different hostile circumstances, creating sensory and realistic environments without staff actually being in harm’s way.

In education, information can be made more understandable, such as showing how our solar system’s planets orbit the sun, or how a battle in history was fought.

“Visualisation enables organisations and individuals to have new ways to look at, explore, understand and use data,” explains Mr McDaniel. “They can vastly shorten time to market, while slashing the cost of development.”

3D visualisation is changing industries – to find out how you can benefit, visit www.mechdyne.com