How a virtual prototype reduces the cost of design errors

July 10, 2018
impact of design errors on virtual prototype

The problem: conception errors are discovered too late

Late changes and on-site modifications are extremely costly

The biggest cause of budgets overrun and project delays is the late discovery of design mistakes during the product development process. In this article, we will see how a virtual prototype can reduce the number of design errors.

For any design team using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, it is critical to identify conception errors as early in the project as possible. Imagine that your team ships a faulty product to your clients. Whether it be a vehicle (car, plane, ship, submarine, spacecraft), a factory, an assembly line or a building, the challenges are the same.

You manufacture the product, ship it to your client and set it up, but discover one or more mistakes. The product will consequently be very hard to use in real conditions or will not match what the client expected.

To illustrate, here are some real life examples:

● changing a lightbulb in the headlight of a car requires removing the whole engine

● the assembly line does not fit in the factory because it is too big

● on a ship, it is impossible to open a door because there is a water pipe preventing the movement

You have probably lived or heard about such examples in your own professional life. Maybe you have also seen their dramatic consequences: your team has to go back to the drawing board, modify the design, re-iterate, create new prototypes and be extra careful during the testing phase. This, of course, causes extra costs and delays, but also credibility loss.

The cause: understanding a 3D object on a 2D screen is hard

A lot of information is lost by displaying a 3D model on a 2D flat screen

Why would a good engineer miss design errors? One (big) reason is probably that inspecting the simulation on a regular 2D computer screen is not natural. You don’t have a correct perception of distances, volumes and it is therefore difficult to understand interactions between pieces. Only trained engineers are able to apprehend the complexity of a small to medium-sized project on a computer screen. But even the best engineers will probably miss some crucial mistakes because of that, not to mention junior engineers.

The human brain and perceptive systems are designed to work in a 3D world, not a 3D world mapped on a 2D screen. By displaying a 3D digital prototype on a 2D screen you are losing one dimension which the engineer’s brain has to reconstruct and remember.

CAD engineers working on virtual prototype

One solution: a virtual prototype displayed at scale 1

A digital prototype simplifies and accelerates the identification of design errors

Now, imagine you had early access to scale 1 prototypes. Looking at a life-size simulation instead of a regular 2D computer screen is much more natural. You can walk around like you would in real life and inspect the mockup more easily. A virtual prototype of your future product gives you a better understanding of scale, distances and volumes. It also helps you better understand interactions between parts and pieces.

A virtual prototype is worth a thousand images

A 3D model displayed using VR headset such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift is the perfect solution. The virtual prototype can, indeed, be available immediately and be updated in realtime. It can also have any size (you can visit a building, a ship or a complete factory) and be shared across the globe.

A virtual prototype visualization software also makes it possible to analyze the 3D model with advanced design review tools. It actually gives you magical powers compared to a physical prototype: cutting planes to see through an object, realtime modifications (positions, orientations, scales, colors, textures).

engineer using VR for maintenance on virtual prototype

VR teleconferencing software are not the future: they are the present

The industry has been using VR and virtual prototyping software for more than twenty years with a proven ROI. Those technologies are at the heart of the Industry 4.0 to create Smart Factories. Your competitors are probably already using those digital twins right now, giving them an incredible boost in productivity and quality. For example, companies like NasaL’OrealNaval Group or PlasticOmnium are using Improov, the leading VR teleconferencing software for CAD teams, everyday. Contact us for an evaluation today.

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