News, views & analysis blogs by: Sarah Cockburn-Price


Sarah Cockburn-Price :
Virtalis installs Second VR System at CNH in the US


Sarah Cockburn-Price :
VIRTALIS, one of the world’s leading Virtual Reality (VR) companies, has just installed a second immersive visualisation suite at Case New Holland (CNH). This installation at CNH’s offices in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, follows the success of their first Virtalis VR suite at Burr Ridge, near Chicago. CNH is a leading agricultural and construction equipment Company and part of the Fiat Group.

Nick Valentine, a design engineer and CNH’s VR specialist, explained: ”Our Burr Ridge StereoWorks system has been so successful, we essentially replicated it at Lancaster. People talk about VR speeding up the product lifecycle and it certainly does, but what it really achieves is improved communication. A prime example at Burr Ridge was when both design engineers and manufacturing engineers were working together on a new lower horsepower Magnum tractor. There had been numerous iterations and there was a general assumption that the new design would simply use its predecessor’s assembly carts. VR made it quite apparent that, in fact, the new assembly would not fit on the old carts, but crucially, this discovery was made in time for new carts to be made and there was no delay.”

The Virtalis StereoWorks configuration at CNH Lancaster boasts a massive 25ft by 14ft PowerWall which has been slightly sunken into the floor so that the combine harvesters, balers, headers and cotton pickers, that are the focus of the Lancaster site’s 300 designers, can drive out of the wall in full stereoscopic 3D provided by a Christie Mirage HD18 projector. Virtalis designed a tailored Intersense IS900 wired tracking system, so that natural movement around the virtual models is maximised. The Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) chosen were nVisor SXs with a 90o field of view from NVIS. As the virtual models CNH creates have 20,000 parts, compute power and graphics rendering capability are vital. The Lancaster system features a 64 bit, quad core workstation coupled with an NVIDIA FX5600 graphics card.

Although the new installation has only been in operation for a short while and most of the designers at Lancaster have not previously come into contact with VR, the Virtalis system already hosts design reviews every other day and that level of usage is steadily increasing. Kanishka Sharma, who runs the Lancaster VR suite, said: “We occasionally have 25 people from various different disciplines exploring their virtual designs in 3D. Virtalis’ application of the PTC MockUp software coupled with their immersive drivers enables us to load an entire model quickly, something that was impossible before owing to its sheer size. I’ve seen teams build a virtual combine from the bottom up, giving them a really good insight into how it all fits together. It is quite possible to miss a 2 mm clearance on a monitor, but it is glaringly obvious in 3D at 1:1 scale”

VR is used all over the world for design and milestone reviews, but CNH is also using its Virtalis system for market research and marketing. Each new programme hosts a couple of day-long focus groups where the interior and exterior styling, initial impressions and control positions and visibility are all monitored. Nick commented: “We commonly “drive” an existing model up and “park” it next to the virtual ones for in-depth comparisons by our team, but being able to use VR to share our virtual ideas with our customers and dealers adds another dimension. We find their views extraordinarily valuable and they are able to influence our designs at an early stage. This happened recently at Burr Ridge with a concept construction skid steer. After a focus group session we made changes to the controls and managed to improve the visibility. Ultimately, being able to do things like create animations of new models or images for our marketing collateral is just an intelligent use of our pre-existing CAD data that VR helps us to exploit.”

Virtalis Web Site:
Case New Holland Web Site:

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