VW goes virtual on new car creation

⦁ Science fiction becomes real reality
⦁ Take a visit to VW’s Virtual Engineering Lab
⦁ IT works  closely with technical development

virtual design pos 1
HOVER CRAFTING: Is this farewell to drawing boards and detailed design images? VW is using virtual reality to re-design existing models. Image: VW Germany / Newspress

WOLFSBURG, Germany – Bright sunlight floods the Volkswagen Virtual Engineering Lab in Wolfsburg. Two dozen screens flicker, some of them showing graphics and others hundreds of lines of program code.

In the centre of the room is a 1:4-scale model of a Golf. Frank Ostermann inspects the model then changes its wheels, replaces the rear lights and modifies the external mirrors.

He uses voice commands and gestures to change the design and it’s all completed in a matter of seconds through augmented reality.

MOBILE COMPUTERS

The software was developed by them and the team’s results could revolutionise the work of engineers and designers.

Ostermann is wearing HoloLens mixed-reality goggles. A mobile computer developed by Microsoft projects virtual content on to a physical object through gesture control and voice commands. Ostermann only needs to point a finger and the HoloLens projects a different paint colour on to the Golf, installs various wheels and modifies the wings.

At first the Golf is an R-Line; suddenly it becomes an entirely new version, something that might appear on showroom floors six months later.

WORKING ON DIGITAL FUTURE

Ostermann (52) is a graduate engineer in computer engineering. Here in Wolfsburg he leads the virtual engineering lab, one of six operated by VW Group IT in Wolfsburg, Berlin, Munich and San Francisco.

The newest lab is starting operations in Barcelona.

The labs, specialising in VW, are working on the digital future with research institutions and technology partnerships. New solutions in the fields of big data, Industry 4.0, the Internet of things, connectivity, mobility services and virtual reality are being created in close co-operation.

Ostermann explained: “VW has been using augmented reality and virtual reality for some time, mainly to obtain a three-dimensional view. We’re now taking a major step forward by transforming this technology into a tool for technical development to enable VW engineers to work on a virtual vehicle, to change its equipment as they wish – even to design new components virtually.”

‘CLOSE CO-OPERATION’

He added: “They will be able to see the results of their work immediately.
“We’re co-operating very closely with our technical development colleagues and are already close to the first new vehicle concepts and design studies.

“We contribute our know-how for technical product development and offer tailor-made virtual engineering and systems engineering solutions for all group brands.”

What’s the reason for this approach? Augmented and virtual reality saves time and development costs. Each step in the process, VW says, can be made faster and more efficiently, for example with HoloLens software.

The HoloLens not only projects each design or equipment change directly onto the physical mode but also allows several project teams to work at the same time but at different places, for example teams from Wolfsburg, Chattanooga and Shanghai.

SYSTEM CAN MAKE ANY MODEL

All concerned always have the current model in view and time-consuming reworking, for example on a clay model, may become a thing of the past. Ostermann explained: “The teams can directly follow and compare minimal changes to the model and then make a decision. This means that they can reach their goal faster.”

The HoloLens software is still in the trial phase but, VW says, in future it will allow users to call up the entire VW model portfolio and present various body designs in all conceivable variants. The developers will then be able to transform a sedan, virtually, into an SUV, an estate car, a convertible or a coupe.

“This was all science fiction just a few years ago,” Ostermann said. “Now it’s clear that this is how we will develop our next models.”

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