A New Era in 3D Design Reviews Using Virtual Reality

Written by: Cat McClintock

Let’s say you come up with a brilliant idea. A life-changing solution to some great engineering challenge, like packing more people onto an airplane while simultaneously providing more leg room.

Yet no matter how revolutionary your design, you know it will take some effort to convince the people around you that your answer is elegant and workable. That’s because marketing managers, VPs of sales, and customers often can’t read what comes off your mechanical design software.

So you devote time to making 3D designs more readable and attractive. You render the models, add backgrounds, capture the views, and then load them into a PowerPoint, just so the rest of the team “gets it.”

Goggles not slides: A whole new approach to 3D design reviews

But what if instead of handing your reviewers slides, you handed them goggles? That’s what PTC did during a recent event. 

An engineer tries out virtual reality for 3D design reviews.

James Laird explores the virtual tractor. Monitor in background shows the view in his goggles.

At a “Design Review Concept” booth, we made a 3D design available in a part digital, part real-world setting, and invited attendees to check out a virtual life-size Caterpillar model.

Donning a pair of goggles, participants could walk around and through the model. They used hand-held controllers to turn on annotations or slice the loader with a clipping pane.

If team members and stakeholders could experience the full-size model, we reasoned, they could get better understand the design and provide meaningful feedback.

For example, suppose a field technician experienced the Caterpillar in full-size 3D. He or she might quickly identify a space that’s too tight for servicing. That would save money, time, and headaches down the road.

A real-world engineer tries out a virtual 3D design review

I talked to James Laird, an engineer at Baxter Healthcare, as he was waiting to try out the demo. I asked him about his experiences with non-engineers and their obstacles to understanding concepts. “Sales, marketing, and others aren’t used to drawings,” he said. “So I generally use renderings and animation to show them how my design fits into the environment and how someone might interact with it.”

Could an AR design review help? That’s what Laird was here to find out.

Goggles in place and controllers in hand, he spent 5 minutes moving around an empty 10x10ft patch of show floor. A nearby monitor showed the view he was seeing in his googles.

Onlookers watched as he measured geometry, drew on the model, and took screen shots—all by just swiping his controllers through the air.

“Just don’t try to sit down in the tractor seat,” his PTC guide warned.

So what was it like?

“I thought, that’s cool,” said Laird after the demo.

Not only that, he said he saw a use case for the technology, specific to his industry.

“Our human factors engineers could use something like this to see whether our medical devices are practical for bed-bound patients,” he said. “Do the angles work? Are objects reachable? Are they visible?”

 using virtual reality for better 3D design reviews

Hötte Wiebe, Tecompaper, explores the virtual Caterpillar.

In fact, anybody who’s ever found problems with a product downstream might have valuable feedback to contribute. Augmented and virtual reality allows the entire team to participate early and more effectively.

Exploring new possibilities for product development and design

PTC has a long history of bringing ground-breaking options to the product development cycle, and we with technologies like augmented reality, we’re continuing to help engineers make better products faster.

If you’re exploring 3D design software, download our free e-book, An Engineer's Guide to the Renaissance of Product Design. You’ll learn how the software makes your workflow more efficient and can help you overcome common challenges like late-stage changes and working with multiple file formats. Download yours today.

Download the eBook: An Engineer's Guide to CAD and the Renaissance of Product Design

Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices

About the Author

Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.