Just quickly check your tablet to see if a new product really works

Industrial designers know better than anyone that things can look great on paper. But to check if a product looks so good in real practice or if a piece of machine really works, you need a prototype. Every year, manufacturers of cars, appliances or machine parts spend millions on building prototypes. According to scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, things can be done differently. With its extended reality (XR) techniques, the designer can check at an early stage whether a product meets the specified requirements.

“In the automotive industry, it’s not uncommon for 10% of the entire development budget to be spent on prototype production,” says Marc Etri, head of the XR Laboratory at the Product Development Institute (IPEK). of KIT. “This can add up to many millions of euros easily.”

Cost reduction

IPEK scientists want to reduce these costs: with extended reality (XR). This works using computer technologies such as augmented reality (RA) and virtual reality (VR). This way, you can augment the physical environment with virtual components or even replace them completely.

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“The technologies XR facilitate us the adaptation of the products to the needs of the customers and to the exigencias of the market in all the stages of his development. This involves finding product profiles, creating concepts, specifying and realizing them, “explains Etri.” Physical-virtual prototypes can save development time and costs. It also allows you to avoid defects that are often not discovered until the last minute. stages of development “.

As an example, it shows a realistic three-dimensional model of a road bike that can be customized on a tablet. “I can change the design of the wheels, frame or saddle with a single click,” he says. Even subtleties such as the color and brightness level of the seat or the structure of the upholstery can be changed with a few clicks on the screen.

“Many engineers are not even aware of what is already possible with AR and VR in practice,” says Professor Albert Albers, head of IPEK. “Game developers have long shown us how to do that,” Etri adds. Often, current customer-centric product development efforts still fail due to inconsistent data management and the consequent lack of consistency, Albers says. “We cannot use 20th century methods to develop 21st century solutions.”

He goes on to say that engineering can benefit greatly from new technologies and methods, even in the current crown era. “Because this technique also makes it possible to work without contact in multiple places,” Albers continues. That is why, in addition to research projects in fundamental research and with companies, the XR-Lab is also used in education.

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