CNH Industrial (CNHi), a leading agricultural, construction and commercial equipment Company, has eleven integrated Virtual Reality (VR) systems from Virtalis.
The fully tracked ActiveWalls are situated in Zedelgem, Belgium, Lancaster, PA, Burr Ridge, IL, Burlington, IA and Fargo, ND in the US and Modena, and Lecce in Italy, plus two 3D TV systems in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Wichita, KA, US, as well as two Head Mounted Display (HMD) based systems, in Curitiba, US and Burr Ridge, IL. Now, with the advent of 4k projectors and software capable of higher quality rendering, the global capital goods company has begun upgrading its Virtalis ActiveWalls. The improvement in the screen resolution enables tractor, bulldozer and combine harvester teams to walk right up to the screen to examine components or new features in more detail.
“We use our virtual reality systems on a daily basis to conduct collaborative design reviews. The fact that we’ve now managed to link up our teams with their international colleagues, has led to a great deal less international travel and accelerated development schedules.”
Kezhun Li, former Head of Digital Prototyping and Simulation (DP&S)
When CNHi began investigating advanced visualisation and its associated technologies, it sought guidance from other parts of the Fiat Group as well as Virtalis.
“Our VR development has always been supported by Virtalis. We created some demos to help CNHi’s managers to better understand the potentialities of VR technologies in their product development process. Following Elasis’ recommendation, CNHi selected Virtalis as the technical partner for the system’s integration.”
Gennaro Monacelli, former manager at Elasis in Italy and current director of the Design Analysis and Simulation Department at CNHi
All seven Virtalis ActiveWall systems have very similar specifications that enable efficient collaborative working between them. The Virtalis ActiveWall configuration boasts a massive 25ft by 14ft screen which has been slightly sunken into the floor so that the combine harvesters and balers can drive out of the wall in full stereoscopic 3D, powered by a Christie 4k projector.
Virtalis implemented tailored Intersense IS900 Wireless VETracker systems, so that natural movement around the virtual models is maximised. The VR conferencing capabilities in the VR suites boast the latest speakers and microphones.
The HMDs are nVisor SX Head-Mounted Displays from NVIS. Since the virtual models CNHi creates have more than 20,000 parts, compute power and graphics rendering capability are vital. The latest Virtalis systems at CNHi feature 64-bit, multi-processor HP workstations coupled with NVIDIA K5200 graphics cards.
At CNHi’s Burr Ridge site, the ActiveWall is linked to an ActiveSpace to enable one user to be fully immersed while his tracked movements are followed by the audience viewing the ActiveWall stereoscopically. This can be used for anything from analysing assembly processes to ergonomic analysis of visibility.
“We are proud to report that we are using our new system to its fullest extent. We are using the tracking system for interactive design reviews and design concept evaluations. Our HMDs are proving invaluable for cab visibility tests, while we are using our Cyberglove for reachability studies. All three pieces of kit work together reliably and in many combinations. The integration is seamless and the whole system was reasonably priced.”
Kezhun Li, former Head of DP&S
INCORPORATING VR INTO CORE METHODOLOGIES
CNHi designs and manufactures numerous different platforms and products, with the different regions specialising in different machines and becoming business centres for those vehicles. By adopting the same VR technology across its sites in Europe and America, the company has been able to carry out international design reviews.
CNHi’s Creo CAD is seamlessly imported into Virtalis’ Visionary Render software. Tasks like assessing a cab’s ergonomics are transformed when the virtual prototype is viewed in a VR environment.
“With the ability to adjust everything on screen, we’ve quickly become less forgiving of rework and have already had great success with our safety reviews for our new combines. The fact that we were able to hold these safety reviews at three locations simultaneously undoubtedly saved a great deal of time. We were concerned about the position of service steps and whether they were sufficiently far from hot components and rails. We were able to measure the actual distance on the virtual model, so what would have become an “action item” on an agenda was addressed straight away. In the span of only two or three hours, we completed the whole collaborative process, without anyone travelling and with answers nine months before the launch.”
Jeroen De Neve, former simulation engineer at CNHi, Belgium
VR FOR MARKETING
The CNHi team has used its ActiveWalls to develop new cabs and to carry out styling reviews. VR is commonly used for design and milestone reviews, but CNH is also using its Virtalis systems for market research and marketing.
Most new programs host a couple of day-long focus groups where the interior and exterior styling, initial impressions and control positions and visibility are all monitored.
“Our Virtual Reality rooms are where all new product concepts can be experienced virtually; years ahead of their actual market launch. The entire development team, including engineers, designers, branding specialists, stylists, manufacturing engineers and maintenance engineers review the virtual models of the prototype, sometimes bringing customers into the mix, so we can better evaluate product performance, in areas such as ergonomics and comfort. These sessions enable us to fully explore the new, innovative features of a future product,”
Gennaro Monacelli, director of the Design Analysis and Simulation Department at CNHi
CNHi believes VR has helped them get closer to their customer base and to get their buy-in prior to product launch.
“Our Virtalis VR systems have undoubtedly saved a great deal of travelling, as engineers can now meet virtually, collaborate and consult with each other over the model in real-time. As a result, our VR centers are used daily by small and large groups.”
Andrew Brokaw, CNHi VR Simulation Manager
CNHi’s use of VR during the last decade has not only significantly shortened its design cycle, but increased communication between other stakeholders, including customers too. A recent example was the launch of the first concept autonomous tractor. There are two variants, the cab-less concept Case IH Magnum and The New Holland T8 NHDrive™ which maintains its cab to deliver operating flexibility, with traditional human operation for road transport and when performing tasks currently unsuited to automation.
Based on the existing Case IH Magnum and New Holland T8 high-horsepower conventional tractors, and using GPS in conjunction with the most accurate satellite correction signals for ultra-precise guidance and immediate recording and transmission of field data, these concept tractors have been designed to allow remote deployment, monitoring and control of the machines.
“We are now using our Virtalis VR to move towards production models of these autonomous tractors. Arriving at the Concept Design took just a year, whereas for a major project of this type, we would expect five years. VR indubitably shaved off a lot of this design time, perhaps as much as two years’ work. Our international Industrial Design Team completely reimagined the tractor for a future autonomous era, eliminating the traditional operator station and crafting the concept Magnum’s sleek and dynamic lines. Simultaneously, the Innovation Team were incorporating the sensors and control system that are required for the tractors to operate fully or partially autonomously. Trials in the field saw these concept tractors successfully planting corn and picking up bales, while the reaction we received at agricultural shows was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.”
Andrew Brokaw, CNHi VR Simulation Manager
“Our customers have reacted positively to the VR experience, because they feel like we are showing them the future, which we are! After these sessions, we not only identify problems in VR, we solve them too.”
Alex Theis, a project engineer working alongside the Product Validation Group at CNH Burlington, IA
Virtual mannequins are deployed to interact with the virtual prototype to test for safety, ease of servicing and operability. The ability to brainstorm in 3D has led to the CNH design engineers feeling that they are ahead of the curve technologically.
“We’ve also taken Virtalis’ ActiveView software to a new level, thanks to some bespoke work by Andy Connell, Virtalis’ technical director, we’ve moved beyond picture-in-picture views to sharing virtual scenes in real time and streaming 3D data over the network, so our teams can benefit from collaborative virtual sessions. Watching a VR model being manipulated in real-time from the other side of the world certainly gives you the wow factor!”
Andrew Brokaw, CNHi VR Simulation Manager