Virtual Engineering

Close to Reality: Virtualization of the Product Creation Process

Virtual Prototyping is an inherent part of today´s product creation process. Virtual Prototyping means to build a computer model of a future product and analyse it like a real prototype. This allows a virtual assembly and test of different product variants without building a real prototype. It reduces time and costs in product development and increases product quality.

Key technologies for Virtual Prototyping are Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Simulation. VR and AR are necessary for the visual presentation of the Virtual Prototype. Simulation gives them a realistic behaviour. Depending on the application demands, image processing and scientific visualization are used to enhance the realistic presentation of the Virtual Prototype. In the near future, it will be indistinguishable from the real prototype.

In the second and third cycle of the product creation process, we explore how Virtual and Augmented Reality in combination with discreet and non-discreet simulation can be used for the realistic presentation and analysis of Virtual Prototypes.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Characteristic for VR is the interactive experience and manipulation of complex three-dimensional computer-based models in realtime. Two aspects are particularly important with the technical realization of a VR system: The presentation of large and complex 3d-models in realtime as well as, technologies and devices that support immersive presentation and interaction on multiple levels of perception. Today, large-scale projection systems are used for presentation. In combination with sound systems and interaction devices, e.g. a dataglove, such systems provide a means to interactively and plausibly analyse a virtual prototype.

VR is well established in product development: it allows to visualize 1:1-scale design models in early design phases which then can be evaluated by engineers in design reviews. Today, innovative VR applications, that visualize not only the shape but further aspects, like e.g. behavior. One example is "Virtual Nightdrive", a VR application supporting the analysis of beampatterns of new automotive headlights, which was developed in the workgroup. The beampattern of a headlight is defined by a complex dataset which contains all lighting characteristics of the headlight. VND visualizes this dataset in a VR application. The user sits in a mock-up of a vehicle cockpit in front of a powerwall and drives along a virtual test track while the beampatterns of the headlights are projected onto the virtual road in realtime. During analysis, the user drives along the virtual test track and evaluates, if the headlight illuminate the road ahead sufficiently.

Interactive analysis of mechatronic systems on a powerwall
Night Driving Simulation in the HD visualisation center

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR superimposes the real world with computer-generated information. These can be texts, 3D graphics or annotations, which are displayed inside the users field of view. For this purpose, special viewing devices are necessary. A common viewing device is the so called Head Mounted Display (HMD), a kind of helmet or glass, in which the computer-generated information are displayed. Alternatively, the Heinz Nixdorf Institute applies the VARI (Virtual & Augmented Reality Interaction Device), which has been developed in the work group. The VARI was developed in cooperation with the Heinz Nixdorf Museum, it combines innovative VR/AR applications with an intuitive usability concept. Core of the VARI is a display, which has been mounted on a pivot arm. A pivot of the monitor can be interpreted as an interaction with the software. This enables an intuitive and novel interaction between human and computer. AR has already been utilized in many industrial cooperations and research projects.

In the scope of the Collaborative Research Centre 614, the technology augmented reality is used for the augmented prototyping: The behavior of modern self-optimizing systems is very complex. Visual aids shall help the engineer to analyse the system. AR superimposes further information into the field of view of the engineer while he is observing a real self-optimizing system. These are information about the system state, state transitions or limits for the behavior. In this way, an intuitive analysis of the self-optimizing system is possible.

Integration of Realtime Simulations into VR- and AR-Applications

Today, simulations are an integral part of a virtual prototype. Simulations calculate the behaviour of a new product and thereby enable a realistic reproduction of a computer-based product model. VR and AR allow an interactive realtime analysis of the simulation, that enhances the intuitive understanding of technical processes.

The integration of different simulations into VR and AR applications requires different methods. The base foundation for this are discrete simulation processes, e.g. for the analysis of the material flow in an assembly line as well as continuous simulation processes for the analysis of the behavior of a multibody-system. The development of suitable methods is one research field of the research group Product Engineering.

In front a real RailCab, behind two simulated RailCabs
Collision: Do collisions occur during a convoy drive?

Our competences and services

  • Identification of possible application of Virtual Prototyping and Simulation in the Product Development Process (VPS Quickcheck)
  • Conceptual design and prototypal implementation of VR/AR-Applications, which can be applied for Product and Process Development, Marketing and Distribution, Educatio
  • Development of new methods and tools for VR/AR basic technologies, e.g. Rendering, Tracking, Data Analysis, Data Management, Interpretation of simulation processes

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