BreakThrough Interview

VR system “pronoDR” that changes the manufacturing process and design review for the manufacturing industry by making it possible to confirm actual size and operability in CAD spacepronohearts Inc.

2019.03.12

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Realistic experience with a head-mounted display

summary

  • Develop an in-house VR tool specialized for the manufacturing site
  • Reduce costs for small and medium-sized enterprises

VR stands for Virtual Reality and means “De-facto sense of reality”. It has “An effect equivalent to reality to some extent” and is not just fiction. Many people may imagine that gamers use goggles with the head-mounted display. Prono Hearts Inc. has developed a tool that utilizes gaming at the manufacturing site. The tool is “prono DR” which utilizes the hardware used in games to experience objects designed in 3D CAD with VR. The setup is not expensive and can be introduced even by small and medium-sized enterprises. DR stands for Design Review and refers to production review meetings. The feeling of position and size that can be experienced with VR will change the design review process of the manufacturing industry.

Utilization of 3D CAD Data

Prono Hearts Inc. was founded in by President Fujimori with the motto, “Professional mind and aspiration”. The company was established to provide consulting and support services for the manufacturing industry with the effective use of 3D (Three-Dimensional) data and making it a company asset. Initially, Mr. Fujimori worked alone, gradually the number of employees increased and the content of the work also expanded. In addition to consulting for the utilization of 3D CAD, they are developing and selling VR/MR (Mixed Reality) systems for product planning and development, and the manufacturing industry.
In product planning and development utilizing 3D CAD data, they are working on a wide variety of projects in collaboration with local companies. An example of VR for the manufacturing industry is the simulation of machine placement and creation of a path for placement and movement of equipment. In this process, the inside of factories is scanned to check if space is available for installing new machines or to change the layout.

Develop Japan's First VR for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

President Fujimori is said to have come across VR in 2013. He experienced the head-mounted display Oculus, which is an engine for games, and predicted that it was a technology that will change the world. He then started to work on the research and development of VR for its application to manufacturing. In 2014, Mr. Fujimori exhibited the Doraemon “Do-It-Yourself Door Project” that was developed in collaboration with XVI at Japan EXPO 2014 in France, and it was well received. In this project, when a user says the name of the place where they want to go and wears the head-mounted display “Oculus” before entering the room, the scenery of the place appears in the whole room and the user can experience the simulation of the actual place.
However, in 2014, only overseas VR systems which were expensive was available for manufacturing, and it was not easy for small and medium-sized enterprises to introduce the system. Therefore, the company promoted the development to reduce the cost of selling inexpensive VR systems specialized for manufacturing. The “pronoDR” system uses low-cost devices such as “HTC Vive”, a head-mounted display for games and commercially available game controllers, and the system is priced in the range of 1 million yen that even small and medium-sized enterprises can afford to buy.

Characteristics of the VR system “pronoDR” Developed for the Manufacturing Industry

“pronoDR” is a 3D design review application for the manufacturing industry. The system enables 3D CAD data designed using 3D CAD software to be converted and reviewed using the VR head-mounted display.
In the past, the only option was to look at 3D models which are in the “Inside the box”, called CAD space, from the outside on a computer screen, but using “pronoDR” allows users to perform design review by going into the CAD space. It is possible for users to conduct reviews with realism as if they are at the actual site, and an improvement in accuracy can be expected with this method.

“PronoDR” is a system suited for users to view 3D data freely from various angles or move around it, and large-scale 3D data (with tens of thousands of parts) can be deployed in VR. By the simulation experience with “pronoDR” of the data designed in CAD, the product size and internal structure can be grasped intuitively and checked from the perspective of the user. It is possible to understand intuitive aspects that cannot be understood unless experienced, such as, is the position of the internal features easy for the users to use? or is the size appropriate? Aspects that were difficult to understand unless manufactured or aspects that are difficult to fix after manufacturing can be identified in advance using “pronoDR”.

“pronoDR” has six unique functions.
(1) Cable function
This function is useful for creating cables and wiring design by clicking anywhere in the space visualized by VR. Since the wiring that is created can also be transferred to 3D CAD data, it enables cabling of piping and wiring in VR space.
(2) Marking function
Various points of interest and areas that are required to be checked can be marked by adding icons. The marking data can also be transferred to 3D CAD data, allowing inspection by VR.
(3) Tool selection function
A hand model displayed on the VR controller can be made to hold various tools. By using this function, it is possible to measure the distance when using a tool and simultaneously verify the ease of assembling as well as confirm whether the tool can be rotated during assembly.
(4) Footprint display function
The display of the movement path can be retained as a footprint, which makes it easy to grasp the sense of distance from the ground, which is difficult to feel in VR.
(5) Position saving function
Any position in VR space can be saved; this eliminates the need for moving to the design review position of large models.
(6) Room lights, headlights ON/OFF function
Room lights can be switched ON/OFF. The headlights are lit when the room light is OFF. Demonstrations of tasks that rely on headlights at night can be conducted and can be used not only for design review but also for safety training.

Image of confirming the size inside the CAD space using “pronoDR”

“pronoDR” is most useful as a VR in the manufacturing industry for small to order production equipment where only a few units or just one unit is manufactured from the design data, and for large-sized machine tools having a low budget.
Designers using 3D CAD, manufacturing personnel in charge of assembly at the site, and customers can all share the same understanding and experience before starting the production. Since it is possible to walk around and check the machine or product, listen to the improvements and requests before the actual production, “pronoDR” exhibits its effect as a communication tool for design review.

Rapid Growth of VR/AR

VR and AR are beginning to replace manuals in manufacturing. AR can integrate CG and reality. It can be used to add “Information to explain and support real space” such as characters and images, Pokemon GO is a typical example.
If AR-based manuals are used, trainers will be able to train fresh recruits in real time on the process and method of manufacturing items. The system is popular as it enables simulated experience compared to just understanding by reading the manual, and notes are displayed in CG depending on the location and timing, facilitating physical and accurate training.

The company is also proactively engaged in working on head-mounted displays, which are essential for VR.
“FOVE” is Japan's first head-mounted display designed by the company and was launched in June 2017. Eye tracking is a function to track the movement of the person’s gaze who is wearing the head-mounted display to find out where the person is looking. It is useful for shelf allocation and sales promotion in retail stores.
The company also imports and sells the VR system “Improov” from France. This system makes it possible to work while feeling as if all the participants are at the same location when conducting online meetings. Besides, the software can be used for moving virtual mannequins, and to determine areas with danger and for checking operations.

President Fujimori considers that the expansion of the usage scope of VR/AR will significantly contribute to the manufacturing industry and is motivated to develop the system further. A significant advantage of VR/AR is that it will eliminate the need for prototypes in the manufacturing industry enabling production time to be reduced.

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Interview Date: February 19, 2019

company information

PronoHearts was founded with a professional heart and motivation to support Japanese manufacturing. We offer consulting for manufacturing industries about effective utilization of 3D data as well as guiding products through the planning, design, and production stages across a wide network of partners. Recent projects also include development and sales of VR/MR systems for industrial use.

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