Until now, these virtual world technologies were reserved for the cinema and video games. Never before had it been possible to enter a complete virtual aircraft or any other industrial product and explore all its components in four dimensions.
This has now become reality thanks to the combination of three technologies: the CATIA digital mock-up system, the only CAD/CAM (Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing) software which can be used to design, assemble and simulate a complete industrial product on a computer; the Silicon Graphics ONYX2 InfiniteReality super-computers, which can calculate millions of data and display them on screen in record time with exceptional graphic quality; and the Panoram Technologies big-screen projection system.
This harnessing of computers with other technologies makes the digital mock-up totally realistic.
From designers to manufacturing workshops, subcontractors and customers, everyone involved in a project can thus inspect and validate the large-scale digital mock-up throughout the life cycle of an industrial product, from design through to maintenance, without the need to produce any physical model.
Manufacturers thus have access to a genuine decision-making tool even before the product acquires any physical reality. Many, including Boeing, Lockheed and Dassault Aviation, have already been able to save millions of francs in mock-up design, and above all to considerably reduce their cycle times while at the same time improving quality and compliance with their customers' specifications.
Digital mock-up of Cyber-Falcon 2000
To reduce cycle times, Dassault Aviation decided in 1990 to revolutionize its industrial methodologies and opted for the 100% digital mock-up system for its future military and civilian programmes. With the CATIA software it was able to design, assemble and simulate virtually, in three dimensions, the thousands of parts used in the twin-jet business aircraft Falcon 2000, together with its 30 kilometres of cables, 550 pipes and more than 3,000 supports, representing a total of 20,000 components.
Now take a seat in the 'Reality Center'
Developed by Panoram Technologies, this geode measuring 6 metres across was designed to provide total visual and audio immersion. It comprises a wide, 160° hemispherical screen of incomparable brightness, three 3-beam video projectors which display the image at the centre, right and left of the screen without any visible join, and stereophonic equipment. The whole system is connected to the super-computers, the most powerful currently on the market, which can calculate and display on the screen the gigantic CATIA mock-up of the Cyber-Falcon, with unrivalled graphic quality.
Ready for interactive navigation in the fourth dimension
Navigation in the digital mock-up is carried out using a CATIA 4D navigator. Unlike the graphic techniques used in video games, what is shown on the screen is not a mere flat 2D image, a kind of facade with texturing added to make it realistic. What you see are perfectly reproduced three-dimensional objects which you can "enter". The fourth dimension is time. Navigation is interactive, in other words you decide on the path you wish to follow and control your speed, and the Silicon Graphics super-computers calculate in real time, as you move, all the images which are displayed on the screen.
Now you're in the pilot's seat in the virtual Falcon 2000
Open the door of this Falcon standing on the runway at Le Bourget. First you can see the cabin and its internal fittings. The quality of the texturing makes it astonishingly realistic. Switch on the ceiling lights to check the lighting. Would you like to change the colour of the carpet or the seat covering? It's easy. CATIA allows you to display all possibilities, and we are still only in the project stage.
Press a switch on the control panel and we now find ourselves in the "bowels" of the aircraft, moving through the bay under the fuselage amid thousands of components: hydraulic pipes, cables, air conditioning and carburettor systems, etc. Now's the chance to check the design and detect any interference. If you are particularly interested in a part, you can display it and manipulate it interactively. Let's slip through a chink and look at the most inaccessible areas. We can easily enter a hydraulic pipe because the part has been modelled in three dimensions.
Just as painting was able to break free of its figurative function when photography was invented, CATIA, using the advanced technologies of Silicon Graphics and Panoram Technologies, goes far beyond the level of a static physical model to allow everyone involved in a project to move around at will inside the future product, thanks to this