BMW is combining VR, 3D printing and technology transferred from the computer games industry to radically alter the way it develops it vehicles.
Whereas the world of product development for large-scale manufacturing has always been a long and costly process, the combination of three distinct technological advancements could be about to consign that to history.
The new process uses 3D printed prototype components with a VR environment based on Unreal Engine’s real-time physics-based rendering.
This creates the possibility for design and feature options to be evaluated before a physical prototype is built.
Simon Jones, director of Unreal Engine Enterprise, said:
“The article pf relatively low cost, high fidelity VR has coincided with a rapid escalation in the need to do more with less and to do it faster.
“BMW’s new mixed reality system is a great example of what can be achieved with clever thinking.”
Supporting global collaboration
Using a VR environment underpinned by Unreal Engine means that features such as interior designs, window sixing and vehicle functionality can be modelled from the view point of the end user.
Now, the 3D printed interior can give a representation of space, while the VR simulates what driving the car through a city at night would be like. Is vision impaired if the seat is too far back? Are the displays too distracting? It is these kinds of details that can delay a project if they are picked up once the physical prototype is built.
The system also has the capability for global collaboration, with people on opposite sides of the globe interacting in the same virtual space.
“Car makers are defining the parameters and the Unreal Engine tools to deliver the platforms they need,” Jones continues: “Allowing engineers and stylists much greater freedom to explore different themes in a way that wasn’t previously possible with costly physical prototypes because they take so long to build and update.”