Developing vehicles faster with Virtual Reality Braunschweig: VR laboratory opened at NFF
On 26 June 2019, the Institute of Engineering Design of the Technische Universität Braunschweig inaugrated the newly established VR laboratory at the Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen (NFF). The research focus here is on linking automotive applications with virtual reality technologies, for instance the testing of prototypes, so that development cycles can be shortened.
In order to ensure a synchronization between the goals and purposes of a product in the early phase of product development, companies rely on a validation process: Does the prototype meet the desired requirements? However, physical prototypes are expensive and inefficient due to lack of data. For this reason, tools from the field of virtual reality are used.
Virtual reality allows the user to perceive a computer-generated environment as reality by addressing specific senses. This technology can be used in product development for the visualization and evaluation of prototypes within the framework of virtual prototyping.
The Institute of Design Engineering at TU Braunschweig deals with Mobility Concepts. Thereby, the researchers also make intensive use of VR technology, for example in visualization, field of view and ergonomics analysis, age simulation, component validation and virtual commissioning.
Aims of the research
“The increasing application of digital technologies in all areas of society is fundamentally changing the requirements for future products. In order to successfully shape the digital change, science and research in particular have a responsibility to provide suitable tools”, says Professor Thomas Vietor, head of the Institute of Design Engineering. The use of virtual reality as a tool could make product development more efficient in the area of mobile applications. Nevertheless, procedures and suitable methods must be developed in order to use this technology in a targeted manner. “For this very reason, we are intensifying our research activities and pushing ahead with the implementation of digitization in the development of modern products. VR creates the necessary changes of perspective and opportunities”, says Professor Vietor.
A fundamental goal is the early validation and testing of virtual prototypes in the product development process. On the one hand the quality of the final product can be increased and at the same time the number of physical prototypes can be reduced. This effectively reduces the development costs and shortens the development cycles of new products. In the medium term, by combining virtual reality with physical individual components, suitable methods are to be developed that support the product development process and provide developers with new tools (software, hardware).
Equipment of the laboratory
The new VR laboratory at the NFF, Braunschweig enables the use of different VR technologies. For example, two VR glasses are used. Due to a large, central platform (stage arrangement), test stand superstructures can be optimally placed and, if necessary, wired from below. In this context, a test stand in the form of a component carrier already exists, which makes it possible to mount and test individual components within a variable vehicle structure (similar to a seat box).
Further test benches for combining virtual reality with physical prototypes are also available or under construction. In addition, VR models can be independently developed at four workstations and then tested via the central control panel. The mid-term goal is to establish a development environment that enables live manipulation (modification of CAD models) of the VR models.
About the NFF
The Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen (NFF) of the TU Braunschweig is one of the largest and most modern centres for mobility research at a German university and concentrates on promising topics in vehicle and traffic technology research. The centre, with its headquarters at Braunschweig Research Airport, has set itself the goal of sustainably securing individual mobility needs in conurbations. Professor Thomas Vietor has been NFF spokesman since 2017.