VR Manufacturing Case Studies Caterpillar

Researchers at Caterpillar Inc. have used VR to improve the design process for heavy equipment. Dave Stevenson and John Bettner engineers with Caterpillar in collaboration with the staff of NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) have put together a system which allows them to quickly prototype wheel loader and backhoe loader designs.

In particular the team is able to perform visibility assessment of the new design. Engineers put on a helmet mounted display and have a full 360 degrees of vision to see how the environment looks and to evaluate obstructions. A Silicon Graphics is used to generate the real time graphics display and to simulate the operation of the equipment. The engineers can "operate" the equipment and evaluate visual obstructions in a natural manner without having to build a physical prototype.

This image from the Virtual Backhoe project illustrates an "operator" driving the virtual equipment at the NCSA VR lab. Select it to view a short MPEG movie of the facility in action.

The Caterpillar team was awarded the 1993 NCSA Industrial Challenge Award for VR Use. In the press release announcing the award:

This technology allows us to dramatically shorten the amount of time it takes to analyze a new design concept and incorporate it into our production process," design Engineer Dave Stevenson said. "It also represents a sizeable cost savings because we aren't having to build prototype machines or make last-minute design changes." He said it takes six to nine months to build full-scale models and design changes using conventional design methods. However, using the virtual reality approach, designs usually can be evaluated in less than one month. Company officials said a number of design options already been tested for new models of wheel loaders and backhoe loaders that are to be introduced by1996, and the company said it eventually plans to allow customers to "field test" new products by putting on the special helmet.
source: NCSA VR Applications - Virtual Backhoe "http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Viz/VR/vr_app_cat.html"