“…any modifications require only a few bits and bytes to be rearranged, as opposed to million-dollar parts.”
Regular readers of SmartRail World will know how much we like to keep up with the latest digital technologies and the opportunities they offer the rail industry. One of the most exciting opportunities is in virtual reality – where a computer-generated environment gives the illusion of being immersed in a real system. Today we focus on how Bombardier have spotted an application for this technology to use it to launch its vehicles onto the market more quickly and to accelerate product development. The rail giant has now developed its ‘virtual manufacturing’ technology which uses simulated manufacturing processes and computer models. Before it existed, design technology was focused more on the concept. Now, virtual manufacturing allows designers to create a 3-D model of a product and to also virtually test the efficiency of its performance.
By virtually testing the efficiency of a product and prototypes, the production of expensive advance models can be greatly improved by using virtual test runs. “This way, development and installation steps can be accelerated, optimized or done away with entirely,” explains Helmut Dietz, Head of Digital Manufacturing at Bombardier Transportation.
Together with his team, Dietz defines, drives and supports the implementation of the Bombardier Digital Mockup for manufacturing directive. He ensures product quality meets customer needs by developing the standardized methodology and tools across the global organization. The collected data flows from the CATIA V5 design system via a product lifecycle management system into a virtual reality solution from the ESI Group that goes by the name of IC.IDO. “In the end, we can view the developed vehicle on high resolution ‘powerwalls’ – and even touch it,” says Dietz. This innovative technology enables colleagues in Development and Production, as well as at management levels, to make considerably more precise and quicker decisions in joint reviews in real time and in different locations around the globe.
Virtual hands make it possible to interact with the virtual and the real product, in an environment known as “mixed reality”, e.g., to assemble windows in the car body, and to check cabling and tubing, while ergonomic issues can be investigated using virtual human models. Virtual reality fully supports the “Run@Rate” manufacturing approach, which means no learning curve starting from the first vehicle’s series build.
Vehicle production can likewise benefit from this approach: working with virtual welding guns, it can be checked whether cut surfaces are easily accessible for employees. “Humans are integrated in real time and can therefore interact,” says Dietz. Looking ahead, he wants to establish virtual reality on a global scale and, as a result, save up to 70 percent on prototypes – a welcome cash benefit for Bombardier and its clients. Five installations of this kind already form part of the Group worldwide.
“In addition, we can visualize the simulation results of heat, cold, air currents and material deformations, as well as space requirements for passengers,” says Dietz. Accordingly, any modifications require only a few bits and bytes to be rearranged, as opposed to million-dollar parts, making both the assembly process and the final product less prone to errors.
Bombardier are a Lead Sponsor of SmartRail Europe (Amsterdam, 19-20 April 2016) and Chris Crawford, Head of Innovation and Knowledge Management, Bombardier is a key speaker. Innovation and the potential of digital developments for improving are key themes, click the button for more...
Discover more on Bombardier's newest innovations in the latest edition of their MOVE magazine.
- Rail predictive maintenance; success, first steps & lessons learned.
- Expert insights: Maintaining a more efficient rail industry.
- Six key technology trends set to dominate rail and metro in 2016.
- Asia's largest underground railway station opens for business.
- Who are the contenders for the huge new London Underground contract?