There have been many studies and papers written over the years on immersive cable routing versus the use of algorithms to calculate cable and pipe pathways. Whilst CAD routing modules certainly have their place, the combination of engineering expertise and immersive VR can quickly solve cabling issues and help to reduce design time when ‘sandboxing’ ideas.
For this exercise, I was looking at implementing a cable routing system using the standard functionality of Visionary Render. The cable router has been created as a ‘Gallery’ object that can be dropped into any scene. When the user switches to their HMD, the GUI is attached to their hand controller ready to start routing cables. Whilst long term this would probably be better as a plugin, I wanted to build this as a gallery object to show a different technique to create and re-use content in Visionary Render.
Once added to your scene, it is a simple case of selecting the cable colour, radius and start drawing. The cable can be drawn freely in open space or it will sit on the surface that you draw upon, whether this be CAD or point cloud scans from real world objects.
Upon cable completion, the cables can be attached at their connection points and moving the connected object will drag the cable with it. The benefit of working in this manner means that cabling can be introduced earlier into the design process. When cabling in CAD, often it is left to the latter stages as designs change continually and the cabling/piping needs to be re-worked to accommodate the new positioning. Whilst this doesn’t automatically adjust and re-route, the cable can be quickly refined and modified to give a good understanding of cable runs and the length of the cable required. The last component of the GUI is a simple OBJ export off the cable path that can be imported back into CAD and used to finalise the cable runs in the design.
With the scripting fully accessible, you can make changes to improve functionality, change export format or even link too BOM to understand cost implications of routing decisions. It is by no means a fully functional routing system but can speed up the design process by using design engineer’s expertise in conjunction with our natural ability to see paths.
In truth, a blend of both methods is probably the ideal solution. Immersive design expertise to sandbox ideas with CAD routing modules to finesse the path within the constraints provided through immersive design. However you choose to do this, it was an interesting challenge for me to build and hopefully it will prove to be a useful tool in design reviews.
To help demonstrate, I have created a video of the above.
The gallery object is provided as is and could no doubt be improved with more expert coding skills than I possess :). If you would like to get a hold of it, please go to https://github.com/virtalis/devblogs/tree/main/cable_router