A division of Fiat Industrial S.p.A., CNH Global N.V. is a leading manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment. The company makes products in 37 facilities worldwide and distributes them through more than 11,500 dealers in 170 countries.
CNH has always tried to stay ahead of its competitors technologically. This forward-looking approach led company engineers in 2001 to try an interactive 3D virtual reality (VR) system to solve an ongoing manufacturing challenge: improve design and reduce waste when creating prototypes. Made by Virtalis, the ActiveWall system was installed in a U.S. plant.
Engineers and management were very happy with the results. The system not only improved prototype design and reduced waste, it also shortened the design cycle. These benefits convinced the company to install three more systems in plants in the United States, Belgium and Italy over the next two years.
“This system allows us to create and work with virtual prototypes to streamline and strengthen the overall design process,” says Andrew Brokaw, design analysis engineer for CNH. “Our systems are used to host design reviews, manufacturability reviews, training sessions and focus groups.”
Early in 2013, CNH installed another six VR systems. Three are ActiveWall systems, which were placed in Burlington, IA; Fargo, ND; and Lecce, Italy. Two are 3D television systems installed in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Wichita, KS. The other system, known as Active-Space, was installed in Curitiba, Brazil.
ActiveWall is an immersive visualization system that CNH uses for control testing and operator training. It is managed by a controller that operates a prototype model in the virtual scene. Virtual mannequins are deployed to interact with the prototype to test for safety, ease of servicing and operability.
“ActiveWall has saved [us] a great deal of travelling because [our] engineers can now collaborate and consult with each other over the model in real-time,” says Brokaw. “As a result, our virtual reality centers are used daily by small and large groups.”
ActiveSpace is an interactive visualization system that requires users to wear a head-mounted display. The systems’ main advantage is that users can move around freely in their virtual environment, while experiencing 360-degree views of the prototype.
In one viewing area at its headquarters in Burr Ridge, IL, CNH has integrated both the ActiveWall and ActiveSpace systems. This combination enables the presenter to be fully immersed, while his tracked movements are followed by the audience viewing the ActiveWall stereoscopically. CNH uses this area to analyze everything from assembly processes to ergonomics visibility.
“Redesigning with VR systems is all done prior to the physical prototype stage,” says Alex Theis, a project engineer working alongside the product validation group at the CNH plant in Burlington, IA. “This allows us to tackle manufacturing challenges earlier in the design cycle and reduce waste stream, because all parts fit as designed.
“VR systems also let us show our customers the future. After these sessions, we not only identify problems in virtual reality, we solve them, too.”
For more information on virtual reality visualization systems, call 937-534-9600 or visit www.virtalis.com.