This is how virtual technology (VR) is revolutionizing cabin design

Designing of cabins has changed radically during the recent years, as the opportunities offered by the virtual technology have been adopted. By designing virtually, customer’s user experience can already be revealed with regard to the cabin and the machine in the first stages of design. Already when a product is at the stage of being a 3D model. It is worth noting that no prototype has been made yet, nor money has been spent at this stage outside the design department. It is a case of significant cost savings, which has revolutionized the cabin product design and the product development process.

“With the aid of virtual technology, we look at construction machine cabins in a virtual environment. This way we can improve the ergonomics and usability of a cabin. This means that the completion time of the product design project is reduced considerably. At the same time, we get customer’s and preferably end-user’s feelings and feedback about the product before anything concrete has been done. This affects the whole project, as time and money is saved,” says Aki Komulainen, Director responsible for the technology of cabins at Fortaco.

Virtual design brings customer’s needs into the focus of cabin development. In the Virtual Reality laboratory, a customer gets to test out the functionality of the cabin, that fits into his daily operating environment. A decisive difference when using VR technology (virtual reality) is that the customer or the end-user can test out the solutions, which they want into the cabin themselves – virtually. All possible functional shortcomings can already be corrected at this stage, before any hardware is created.

“With the aid of VR, we can hit customer’s needs on the spot and leave out the construction of a physical model, so-called mock-up. Together with the driver we can study the reach of the driver, ergonomics of a cabin, design, safety and other required features,” says Fortaco’s Technical Manager, Juha Juvonen.

Indeed, VR technology makes user-centered design possible. Cabins have already been designed by computer modelling, but now this data model is taken into the virtual environment where the customer can see the choices made and functionality. The conversion of 3D data models into the virtual environment has become lot easier with the modern technology and can be done in hours.

“We have carried out several projects like these with our customers, including earth-moving and forestry machines, material handling machines, port cranes and mining industry machines. Generally, the VR work starts once the initial 3D design has been done. We run a workshop with the customer in the VR laboratory by testing a defined range of topics, like visibility and instrument layout, to receive feedback on subjective impressions. When the customer is giving own, valuable, additional information into the project, they also benefit from that their own people are committed to the project, already before the physical testing stage of the product,” Juvonen continues.

Fortaco has started ground-breaking cooperation with Tampere University of Technology already in 2006. The aim was to develop the tools of using virtual technology. In connection with the cabin product development project, a model of cabin was transferred into the virtual laboratory. One of the first drivable and movable models for a material-handling crane was created.

“Back then, the technology was not so advanced yet and it took us a lot of time and investment. Interfaces did not talk to the design software and virtual environments. We got it to work and experiences have been good. Now we are programing 3D models together with customers in virtual laboratories,” Komulainen summarizes with regard to the stages of the adoption of virtual technology.