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Virtual Reality Cable Harness Design

Dr Brian Gilhooley, CEO of Virtual Interconnect stated that ”the long term links with the James Watt Institute have been very beneficial to our company and significantly helped our process development".

The engineering industry is currently in the transition from 2D to 3D and new technologies are required to take advantage of this changing landscape. The increasing competition from low labour rate economies has also led to UK companies requiring new and innovative products to maintain their position in a global marketplace. The use of virtual reality (VR) and CAD are key technologies, but also require significant development in this area.

Virtual Interconnect Ltd (VI) supply cable harness designs to major OEMs; providing models, expert advice and employee participation in testing virtual reality cable harness design prototypes.
Acknowledging the changes taking place in the engineering industry, VI wanted to undertake a research project that would combine traditional engineering skills and computerised processes to exploit the emergence of “whole product” modelling and translate wire harness design onto a more professional level.

Research in the James Watt Institute for High Value Manufacturing at Heriot-Watt was aimed at evaluating VR and CAD Interfaces within conduit routing for creative design. Work was carried out on industrial product data files to ensure that the research was applicable to industry. Human factors/functional performance experiments were applied to determine how the VR and CAD interfaces affected design quality as well as giving a deeper understanding of how the technologies influence the design methods employed and the associated solutions.

Using statistical correlations a number of cause and effect relationships between the categorisations applied to the design tasks were determined and gave a detailed and, for the first time, non-intrusive insight into how the design process is carried out as well as how certain aspects of the virtual environment impacted on this.

The project has significantly increased the capability of VI, having developed their own circuit simulation software which integrates closely with existing engineering software; providing a robust means of testing circuits, evaluating faults and driving design workflows. The success of the project has led to VI engaging with the University of two Engineering Doctorates and further projects to extend the company’s circuit simulation package.

The results of this work have led to the research team at Heriot-Watt being invited to present their work to three major car companies in Detroit and Chairing the 1st International Virtual Manufacturing Conference in Alexandria, Virginia, which was attended by all of the major Virtual Manufacturing research groups in the USA. This is an excellent achievement that highlights the relevant industry focused research that Heriot-Watt produces.

The work has led to industrial partnerships with companies such as Agilent, BAE SYSTEMS Avionics, BAE SYSTEMS Naval Ships, JCB, NCR, FMC Kongsberg Energy Systems and Rolls-Royce. After observing this and other VR work, Rolls-Royce (Bristol) Mechanical Engineering Department invested considerable sums in their own VR facility including the use of haptics for assembly analysis.

For more information contact:

Jim Ritchie
0131 451 4364
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