- It was imperative that Bell find a way to bring their products to market much faster.
- Typically, it takes 5-7 years to design a helicopter and requires a complex process that includes software designs, physical mock-ups, pilot tests, focus groups and more, all before creating an actual airframe for tests. It is extremely time-consuming and expensive, and every delay could mean millions of dollars in lost revenue.
- Bell wanted to explore the use of emerging technology to advance design and experience for this otherwise tedious process.
- S5D used initial sketches to create a 3D model of the aircraft using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software and then transferred it into Unity (a real-time game engine) so the design could be tested and modified in VR on HTC VIVE.
- Instead of having to start with a small-scale model for the initial prototyping, test pilots could experience the aircraft as if they were inside an actual model, allowing them to provide quicker and more specific feedback.
- In addition, engineers were able to make adjustments to the design based on critical success factors such as visibility, access, safety, and comfort.
- The ability to build mock-ups in VR had a profound effect on the entire design process. This type of visualization and interaction allowed Bell to identify and fix issues much sooner than was possible with traditional methods.
- Without VR technology, issues regarding visibility, ergonomics and clearances typically wouldn’t have been discovered until very late in the development cycle. Catching these issues early most likely saved Bell millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars.
- The use of VR technology allowed the design team to get a full-scale prototype in front of decision makers and customers much earlier in the process, greatly reducing the overall design cycle. In fact, Bell was able to bring the FCX-001 to market ten times faster than by using traditional methods, a feat that would never have been possible without the power of Virtual Reality.
- Due to the incredible success Bell has already experienced by incorporating VR into its product design, the company is now exploring other uses for the technology as well, such as customer experience, training and maintenance.