Geometry assurance is an aspect of virtual reality
that was quietly neglected by many industrial software engineers in the nineties – when the idea surfaced that industry might be able to use computer simulation alone to develop its products and save vast resources. And yet, involving the stability and tolerance of structures and assemblies, geometry assurance is fundamental to practically every mass production manufacturing process. Robust Design & Tolerancing is the name of the software helping a number of industries put robustness into their virtual design processes. Chalmers professor Rikard Söderberg is the driving force behind it.
When products are made from a single piece of material, tolerance and robustness are rarely complicated. But as soon as they are made from manufactured components – with a certain variation in size, quality or rigidity – the way they are put together determines whether they become usable products or useless prototypes. This principle is just as relevant when designing the body of a car, modifying a new turbine for a jet engine or developing an entire production system. The key is to optimise the fixture points in such a way that provides the necessary strength and stability while compensating for the variation in each part. This is the basis of a robust sub-assembly.
The robust reality
In a product that is created using one sub-assembly within another and perhaps another, amplified variation between parts could be the difference between a perfectly functioning aircraft engine and a minor disaster. So ultimately, geometry assurance is a form of quality assurance. Of course, this is why proto¬type development is still largely carried out in the resource-consuming real world. Not only for engines and cars, but wherever products are manufactured or production systems are needed – especially in markets where rapid product development or greater customisation is in demand.
Capturing competitive knowledge
In these environments, a simulation process with the capacity to calculate the strengths and weaknesses of different design solutions from scratch allows engineers to see what will be robust enough in the real world while it is still in the virtual world. This is the beauty of developing the software that incorporates the necessary geometry. What’s more, the lessons learned in one project are immediately applicable to the next, as the data is swiftly stored by the software and accessed for similar products.
Taking research to industry
By tackling some of the most complicated aspects of industrial engineering, Söderberg and his team have come up with the geometry assurance methods and tools needed to bring virtual reality a lot closer to reality. Through Robust Design & Tolerancing software, the research is now used on a daily basis by approximately 30 companies in a handful of industries around the world. Volvo, Ford, Jaguar, Pininfarina and Renault Trucks are cases in point. So the concept of virtual development and verification of products and production systems is close to realisation – a process that will undoubtedly be advanced by the new virtual production laboratory at Chalmers.
For more information, please visit:
Wingquist Laboratory Vinn Excellence Centre
part of Production Area of Advance
Professor Rikard Söderberg