Virtual reality is an invaluable tool in the machine design process to allow for visualization and evaluation of designs before they are built. VR allows for a fundamentally new workspace that provides a sense of depth, scale, and interaction not available from a 2D monitor. VR offers a number of advantages that haven’t been available in the traditional design process until now.
The use of tracked hand controllers and a 1:1 scale machine model in virtual space allows potential workers to interact with a machine or work station before it is even built. It is easy to evaluate ergonomics, safety, and practicality in a VR environment.
Consider the following questions that are common during an automated machine design process. All of these questions may be difficult to evaluate with a traditional CAD system but intuitive and straightforward in VR.
- Can the worker easily reach all part locations without moving their feet?
- Will a particular assembly position require a worker to bend over or reach in an uncomfortable fashion?
- Does the worker have a well designed work cell that allow for easy access of parts and the work piece?
- Can the operator complete all necessary motions to operate the machine at rate?
- Is the machine HMI positioned at the correct height?
Machine Safety Evaluation
- Are there openings in the guarding that allow the operator to reach in?
- Are E-stop buttons within reach of the operator?
- How far can an operator reach through a particular gap?
- What will the completed machine look like?
- How will the new machine fit next to current equipment?
- How are parts loaded into the machine?
- What are the assembly steps in a manual work cell?