Industry 4.0: The Design you Expect, Thanks to Virtual Reality

16 April, 2019 | Blog

In the wake of Industry 4.0, also known as the fourth industrial revolution, businesses intending to build new facilities also want to maximize the return on their investment. In this respect, the building blocks involved must be factored into the design phase, way before the building phase.

That’s when the following questions come up:

  • How does one maximize the effectiveness of a design while at the same time reducing building costs?
  • What types of plans should be used?
  • Can we improve access to machinery and equipment for when maintenance activities are required?
  • How can we optimize processes and procedures?

Although a paper plan and a 3D representation on screen can yield some of the answers to these questions, a virtual reality (VR) plan is the ideal tool to increase profitability and the excellence of your design, all at lower cost. 

What is VR?

This leading-edge technology enables users to immerse themselves in an interactive environment with limitless interaction. This immersion is the key feature of VR. Recent innovations have paved the way for high-resolution headsets, for example. The graphic quality provided by these new headsets is so impressive that users are literally transported into the VR models and facilities.

The immersive experience opens the door to a multitude of applications, notably design reviews, highly realistic health and safety training or hands-on training in a model plant faithfully reproduced via 3D scanning.

An innovative solution at the service of design

The implementation of new technologies presents a daunting challenge for some plants. However, with the appropriate expertise, it is possible to 3D-scan an entire plant, or make use of existing models (Navisworks, Revit, etc.) imported into VR.

A design review conducted in this manner provides a number of benefits, as described below.

Better constructibility

Making use of the faithful quality and the one-for-one representation of the simulation, conversion into VR can be used to easily validate a project’s feasibility, to determine ahead of time where space restrictions might come up, to pick up high-detail design errors before construction or to provide an exact view of the plant once built. Unlike paper plans or models on a conventional screen, VR projects the user into a context where targeting problems is as easy as if you were there in person. One of our clients conducted a design review in VR and discovered that part of the ventilation design was flawed. The VR model enabled him to convince a client to do business with them instead and avoid substantial expenses.

Improving health and safety

Serious accidents remain an unfortunate fact of life in industry. Using VR, planners can quickly and effectively determine possible safety issues. VR simulation could be used to determine the distance between hazardous machinery and emergency aid equipment, as well as ascertain the presence—or absence, for that matter—of overhead safety guard rails.

Immediate returns on investment

VR simulation is a handy, scalable solution. Each project undertaken, regardless of its scope, is custom-designed to exact specifications. Properly conducted design reviews provide instant added value. Any defect detected in the model at the design stage translates into considerable savings in time and money at the building stage.

Scanning a work environment

Having a scanned work environment, i.e. the equivalent of a digitized “twin”, provides added value not only from the very beginning of the design stage but also throughout operations in the longer term. Some possible applications: remote plant tours, localization training of new employees, health and safety training.

In conclusion

When undertaking the construction of new facilities, it is essential to factor in the benefits and drawbacks of adopting an advanced technological solution, including of course the consequences of keeping the status quo. The added value of VR is so evident, however, that we can all expect it to become an industry standard very soon.

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