Virtual Reality: Proper Equipment

To stay ahead of technology, Perception Engineering has integrated virtual reality into its daily routine. Showing customers first hand what their product will look like before the next phases of engineering. Perception Engineering’s virtual reality software allows for customers to modify their CAD files and walk around inside the models. This blog series will explain and aid in helping you get started in the virtual reality industry.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality in the engineering field is bringing custom creations to life. Virtual reality is a 3D computer generated image that allows the user, with the help of some virtual reality equipment, the ability to interact in a more personal matter with the generated creation. In this blog, I will be touching on how this technology/equipment can be used in the engineering field. Perception Engineering has used this on numerous occasions to present the client with hands-on visual and scale of the product. 

Virtual Reality Equipment

Most virtual reality software and equipment pairs with SolidWorks; as this blog focuses on touching the basics of using virtual reality with this CAD program we will be showing examples of what SolidWorks can do for you in Virtual Reality.

There are many VR headsets and hand controls are offered online: a few higher-end products such as a HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift could cost around $400 to $600; whereas, something like a Google Cardboard or an Insten Cardboard Viewer will cost around $3 to $15.

The high-end equipment will allow the user to interact with the model and walk/jump around for a more realistic experience. The HTC Vive when paired with SolidWorks will allow the user to move things around within the model as seen in Figure 1. The cheaper option will let the user see the model in a more up-close 3D fashion, but these won’t allow for the interaction with CAD creations.

Virtual Reality Software

There are many option when looking into a program that can generate SolidWorks models into a virtual reality environment; It’s all about finding which one will best work for you or your company’s application.

Figure 1 - HTC Vive Interaction.jpg

Figure 1: HTC Vive Interaction 

One program that we have been using here at Perception Engineering is DEMO3DVR from the Emulate3D company. They are a certified solution partner with SolidWorks and have created an incredible software that allows the user the ability to disassemble assemblies, change the scale for an easier view of the entire creation, and save files off to be viewed on a smartphone. One other cool thing about DEMO3DVR is that it has a built-in add-in for SolidWorks so viewing CAD designs are just one click away. This software comes in at $995 per license which is a one-time fee.

Another option for viewing 3D designs is to use the Unity gaming engine. Unity is known mainly as a gaming engine, but the software also allows the user to import certain files to view them virtually. This software is free to download, but there are some limitations to what can be done with the imported model. The major issue is that the software doesn’t allow for the ability to disassemble the assemblies. This is only useful if the user just wants to see the imported geometry in it’s true scale to gain insight on the heights and locations of certain features.

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Figure 2: HTC Vive Equipment

Reasons for Virtual Reality in the Engineering Field

Virtual reality may be seen as something that would only affect the gaming industry at the moment, but CAD designers are implementing this technology in the engineering field. One industry that this technology is potentially very useful for is architectural. Being able to see a building, bus stop shelter, or a gazebo before having to construct it is huge. This allows for a better scale of the true size to ensure the right heights, lengths, and dimensions have been chosen.

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Figure 3: Virtual Reality Display

It also saves time and money! It helps to prevent building the entire structure first only to realize that things do not line up the way they should, or that the structure is too small for the application it was intended for.

Another benefit of virtual reality is the ability to collaborate with people around the world at the same time on the same design. This allows multiple people from all over the world to be looking at the same design at the same time to help eliminate miscommunication and confusion. This is much, much more useful than trying to talk over email or even over the phone to convey certain points.

Marketing Tool

At Perception Engineering, we are using this technology to help customers get a better view of their product. Whether it’s giving them a glance at the true scale in a virtual world or giving them a better idea into things such as clearance space between components and moving components to get a clearer picture on the final design. We had the chance to show off this technology to Michigan 3D (MI3D). People of all ages were welcome to try out the virtual technology and explore the Perception Engineering building during this event.

The process of setting up this virtual reality is a quick process despite what some people may believe! On the hardware side of things, it takes about 10 minutes. This would be a little quicker, but it’s crucial to place the virtual reality sensors in the proper area to help eliminate sensor lag and sensor blocking. Next up is running the software that converts the created SolidWorks model into a virtual reality image. This only takes a couple of minutes depending on which software being used and the specs of the computer. The setting up process will be explained more in depth in next month’s blog!

Written By:

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Cody Cook

CAD Designer at Perception Engineering