NCMS Project #: 140208
Problem: Visual simulation technology had been available in the market for several years, and was used selectively in high-end graphical applications. Use of the technology in practical applications was limited due to its high cost and awkward methods of view. Special viewing glasses or lenses were required and oftentimes was accompanied by a sacrifice of image quality.
A four dimensional (4D) visual simulation technology had been successfully tested by the U.S. Army for use in night surveillance applications using infra-red, such that enhanced perspective on the images makes the images clearer. Targeted applications were for use in weaponry sighting technology and for ground surveillance. This technology was of interest to CTMA to determine if 4D images of DoD systems under inspection and repair could optimize the overall quality and performance of R&O projects.
Benefit: The enhanced visualization project provided the following benefits to the Navy’s maintenance programs:
- Closer “visible” inspection of hard-to reach surface areas via use of enhanced virtual models acting as “clone images” of surface areas
- Increased safety of inspection personnel no longer having to physically reach remote areas of inspection
- Demonstrated the ability to deliver remotely repair expertise with transported images between the inspection/repair site and the location of the expert
- Ability to more closely inspect repair and determine degree of repair and best approach to optimally repair or condition surfaces.
Benefits from the team’s testing were projected in several areas:
- Reduction in Development of Physical Prototypes. The ability to view digitally-designed data in full scale form (new products or replacement parts) reduces the number of physical prototype iterations that need to be built in order to assess the item for product appeal or form and fit purposes. The average cost for prototype developments was estimated to be between $10,000 – 50,000 per prototype. The projected financial savings as a result of reduced prototype developments over the course of a year (applied systematically within the departments tested) could reach an estimated $1,000,000 per year in savings. These kinds of benefits could be found to be substantially higher if applied in a broader context within the organizations.
- Enhanced Product Quality or Product Inspection. Use of the virtual system to understand defects or problems earlier in product design, product evaluation or problem detection state resulted in productivity savings, and in some cases, defect reductions in manufacturing. These projected savings are conservatively estimated to be $900,000 per year in cost avoidance measures within the departments.
- Increased Shop Floor Safety Measures. The use of the system in inspection of surfaces or areas difficult to reach, or where specialized expertise was required but not available on site, increased visual under-standing of the surfaces. Utilizing the system provided benefits in increased safety and increased access to “expertise” applied at targeted areas. Estimated hard dollar savings were more difficult to assess, but projected values in potential decreases in insurance, hazard pay and other general productivity resulted in approximately $350,000 in annual savings.
Solution/Approach: Ethereal Technologies manufactures a visual simulation display system (VIS4D), capable of producing high quality, 4D images (x,y,z and time) without the need for special viewing glasses or aids. The system produced bright, flicker-free images, which are projected into “full space” in front of the viewer. This technology allows the viewer to see full scale objects, or magnified objects as required by the application. The applications tested included:
- Small parts and wheel designs for size, shape and surface quality. The process in use involved evaluating computer-aided design digital data on a 21” monitor or large screen (non–stereo) display prior to prototype or evaluation model milling. The modeling software used with the VIS4D system was Opticore.
- Materials characterization and analyses in a research laboratory setting.
- Remote inspection of surfaces for damage assessment and maintenance and repair needs on the Trident Submarine. The VIS4D setup included stereo cameras, dual pipe video board and a PC.
Impact on Warfighter: This type of visualization technology could potentially shorten R&O turn around times and increase the quality of in-situ repairs.
- U.S. Army – TACOM
- U.S. Navy – Trident Submarine Refit Facility
- DaimlerChrysler Corporation
- United Technologies Corporation Research Center
- Ethereal Technologies, Inc.
- VE Technologies