FREMONT, CA — SGI, a leader in technical computing, has revealed that SGI Japan, Ltd and Komatsu Ltd. have installed a four-screen virtual reality system at Komatsu's Ibaraki Plant (Hitachinaka-shi, Ibaraki Prefecture) for the design and development of construction equipment. Installed at a modeling facility within the Ibaraki Plant, the system has begun operation.
Komatsu completed its Ibaraki Plant in January 2007 as a manufacturing site for large construction equipment. The plant develops dump trucks and other large-wheeled construction equipment used primarily in the mining industry and exports most of its products overseas. The increasing volume of build-to-order production for overseas markets has created the need for efficient design and development processes. The full-fledged virtual reality system installed by Komatsu utilizes large-screen stereographic projection to facilitate sophisticated evaluation of equipment operability, maintainability, and other design features, thereby enhancing and accelerating the plant's development capabilities.
The four-screen immersive virtual reality system creates a virtual environment in which designers experience how drivers and maintenance personnel actually operate inside the equipment. Equipment design is evaluated through the three-dimensional projection of life-sized objects. Driver visibility can be tested in all directions and other key safety aspects can also be tested and validated. Equipment designers of pump and engine components can also achieve the sensation of handling real physical parts, enabling them to accurately study the maintainability and ease of making routine repairs. A key feature of the system is the ability for third parties to use a separate monitor to independently confirm how drivers and maintenance personnel move and see within the equipment, as well as the movement of the equipment itself.
The large-scale virtual reality system is comprised of front, right, left, and floor screens, four projectors from U.S.-based Christie Digital Systems, and six optical motion-capture cameras from Germany-based ART. With screens measuring 3.8 meters wide and 2.4 meters in height and depth, the system can project life-sized images of large-scale equipment.
Four SGI Japan Asterism visualization systems featuring NVIDIA's highest-performance GPUs are used for three-dimensional visualization processing, and TechViz XL software from the French company TechViz is used for the automatic three-dimensional display. This enables the PC-generated CAD models to be shown in a virtual reality environment without the need for conversion processing. Once CAD data has been created, the models can be quickly displayed through the system.
Komatsu began adopting 3D CAD systems for construction machinery and vehicle design and development in 1996. In 2004, the company began developing all new equipment models on 3D CAD systems. However, Komatsu still found a significant gap between designs on PC displays and real equipment when it came to visibility, safety, maintainability and ease of repairs. This gap created the need for a system that could provide sophisticated evaluation capabilities through large screens and 3D projections. Komatsu installed its first four-screen virtual reality system at its Osaka Plant in May 2011. In 18 months, the system has generated a wealth of benefits, including reduced development times and modeling costs. The Ibaraki Plant installation represents the company's second full-scale virtual reality system.