Design Review in the Virtual Meeting Room

IAV uses VR and AR – the aim is to digitize and interconnect the development process

Digital methods are revolutionizing the automotive development process. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are particularly promising: they provide the capability of visualizing, analyzing, comparing, evaluating and even experiencing results at an early development stage. IAV uses VR and AR in powertrain development.

Neither AR nor VR are absolutely new – in the meantime, though, the technology is so advanced and the equipment required so inexpensive that both visualization methods can now be used effectively in the development process. In its Digital Lab, IAV is scrutinizing a whole raft of potential applications for AR and VR.

The aim is to continue optimizing the development process by consistently connecting and digitizing all of the activities involved. One thing is becoming clear: VR is tending to be used at an early stage of the development process, AR preferably at a later one.

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Animations bring operating principles to life

VR lends itself to powertrain development from the aspect of visualizing simulation results. “The trend is definitely moving from real-world to virtual prototyping because it saves time and money”, reports Thomas Böhme, team manager in the Powertrain Systems Development section at IAV. “This is making it all the more important for us to visualize abstract simulation results and, by doing so, make them more tangible.” This way, for instance, it could allow developers and customers to meet in a design review to discuss the details of a new engine or transmission design using smart glasses. This would not only visualize design details – but, using VR, also provide an animated experience of the way they will work later on.

Particularly with complex components, such as automatic transmissions, it is difficult to understand the interaction of components. VR gives everyone involved a better system understanding because the working principle can be shown directly in the transmission’s later environment. “Workshops with customers have shown VR to be of immense benefit in a case like this”, Thomas Böhme says.

Integration studies can also benefit from VR. Virtual inspections of components can reveal access or installation-related problems at an early stage and permit remedial action in good time. Just as in the case of virtual prototypes, this also means that discussions can take place with clients or among developers wherever they are. Rather than making expensive and time-consuming business trips, everyone concerned can simply meet in a virtual room and share data. For this purpose, IAV has installed the facilities needed at its development centers in Berlin, Chemnitz / Stollberg and Gifhorn where they are proving to be a huge success.

Expert help via smart glasses

Using AR permits company-wide collaboration among experts. “Often a member of staff at one location needs help from a specialist at a completely different site”, says Paul Kersten, development engineer at IAV. “We have actually run a scenario of this type: a mechanic wears smart glasses and, using the integrated video camera, transmits his field of vision to the expert who’s far away. The latter can then, for example, circle specific components, letting the mechanic know what to do next”.

The great benefit of VR and AR in the development process can be provided with relatively little input. Static visualizations can be generated from existing CAD data in a very short time, cross sections and animations take a little longer – but here too, the effort is very much within reasonable limits. In future it is likely to become even less once visualizations can be generated more or less automatically.

The time has come

“VR and AR have come a long way and are accepted among staff – after all, many of them are already familiar with smart glasses from their private life”, Kersten says. “We see many effective applications for both visualization methods in automotive development and are using them.”

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