Using Virtual Reality with 3D CAD and 3D Printing

Virtual Reality, commonly referred to as VR, is becoming more and more prevalent in our lives. Just look at the obvious example of gaming. You probably know at least one person in your circle of
friends or family who has told you to try out their VR headset to see something in a new way.

3d-cad-and-3d-printing-meet-virtual-realityBeyond gaming and entertainment, VR is
also used for business and educational purposes such as training, research, and engineering. We asked Dan Wagner at Prism Engineering, a Fisher Unitech
company, to tell us more about VR and how he and a technical team of 3D CAD and 3D printing experts are using it for their engineering purposes.

Dan, please describe your role at Prism Engineering.

I’m a technology geek at heart. I have over eight years of experience working in the CAD software industry. I manage the SOLIDWORKS Technical Services team. Our expertise working with SOLIDWORKS ensures that our customers receive training and technical support services from a highly experienced staff. We make sure that our customers not only have success with SOLIDWORKS adoption in their organization, but that individual users gain the skills they need to be productive and get the most value from SOLIDWORKS.

As a self-proclaimed technology geek, are you experimenting with any emerging technologies?

Yes, one of my hobbies is using remotely operated vehicles, specifically using first person view (FPV) virtual reality technologies. I have a video camera mounted drone that I fly. While operating the drone from the ground, I can see what it sees and experience a sense of flying while standing on the ground.  

I understand there’s a connection with FPV and how your team has been using SOLIDWORKS 2017 to become familiar with its new features and enhancements. Can you talk a bit about that?

There is a connection. We came up with the idea to use a robot as the dataset, so we purchased a claw  robot. We wanted the robot to be able to retrieve a beverage from another room, so we added a FPV system that would allow us to remotely operate the robot and see what it could see. Some of the parts had to be custom designed. Using SOLIDWORKS 2017 our team was able to collaborate and develop a mounting kit for all of the needed hardware. Some of the vendor parts were in a third party format for example, and 3D Interconnect in SOLIDWORKS 2017 allowed us to work with those formats natively. Our team is spread across multiple states, so using SOLIDWORKS PDM Professonal gave us a single, secure environment to share all of our files to arrive at the complete FPV system, including all of the the parts and supporting accessories.   

Did you guys name the robot?

Yes, we named the robot “Fetch”, which stands for: Fully. Electronic. Tip Proof. Claw. Handler.  

Let’s go back to how you modified Fetch. I understand that you also used 3D printing. How did you do that?

We imported a 3rd party CAD format assembly and began working to retrofit our FPV system. Our goal was to focus on both form and function. We knew were going to 3D print all of the parts, which allowed us to be extremely creative with our design. 3D printing removes the wait time and cost of prototyping.  We were able to print and test fit parts within hours instead of days or possibly weeks. We ended up with a rugged, yet elegant design.

Did you and your team run into any issues?

Yes, we had to try different design approaches. The robot kept tipping over under the weight of the beverage can. So we used SOLIDWORKS 2017 to come up with a mechanical fix. And using 3D printing to quickly print prototypes of parts allowed us to validate our design more quickly rather than waiting days or weeks using traditional prototyping.

About the Author

Christa Prokos is a marketing manager at Fisher Unitech. She researches and writes about the latest business trends and technologies impacting manufacturers, including 3D printing, SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD design and product data management tools, product lifecycle management, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things. Christa has worked as a high tech marketing and communications professional since 2000. You can follow her on Twitter: @ChristaProkos.

Image courtesy of Oculus VR, LLC.


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