Interacting with Volvo’s latest all-electric truck as a 1-to1 scale model featuring all its 12 000 parts to validate new designs, assembly, and maintenance processes in Virtual Reality
During the NVIDIA GTC Spring 2022 conference, I had the pleasure to support Steve Horton from Volvo Group Trucks Technology’s (GTT) R&D department in unveiling their deployment of ESI’s Virtual Reality software at what we playfully labeled as a “Pop-Up XR”, in front of the virtual GPU Technology Conference audience.
The deployment of IC.IDO, which was the focus of the presentation, is a first-of-its-kind installation; making use of cutting-edge head-mounted displays (HMD) along with NVIDIA CloudXR, that delivers IC.IDO core capabilities to power collaborative virtual workspace. IC.IDO is most often deployed to individual HMD-attached workstations or clusters driving projected VR (CAVE or powerwall). This initiative aims to help product development be more agile and effective by enabling IC.IDO participation via low-threshold, ubiquitous, and collaborative XR technology. Fast, agile, and virtual techniques such as immersive XR have helped Volvo to lead in a fast-changing industry with significant and transformative challenges, including a new generation of products based on hyper-efficient electric drivetrains.
As a result of the joint development initiative in between Volvo Group Trucks Technology and ESI Group, Steve and I had been invited to talk about the use and technology of Collaborative Virtual Workspaces at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC) this year. Both due to travel regulations still in place and to avoid frankly unnecessary travel, Steve set up from Volvo Group Trucks Technology headquarters in North Carolina, USA, while I joined virtually from my local ESI office near Stuttgart, Germany. And in preparing the talk, Steve and I decided to skip the usual slides. Instead, we opted for giving the still virtual attendance at GTC 2022 an actual opportunity to experience the use of PopUp XR sessions, while at the same time virtually exploring Volvo’s most recent product in their effort to support the change to a more sustainable transport industry: the Volvo VNR Electric.
Similar to the “Master Build”, what we experienced was a full 1-to-1 scale model containing all the 12 000 parts of the truck, which teams at Volvo are using to coordinate the design, integration, and manufacturing of the future product. Given the multitude of cab, wheel, drivetrain and suspension combinations available to future customers, the benefits of a fully configurable digital experience became immediately evident – no enterprise can or should build and maintain a physical fleet of trucks or mock-ups to inform their engineering workflows. Instead, by conducting virtual build reviews it is possible to review a wider range of variants in less time and with less expense than attempting to sustain that many physical builds.
Steven and I even had a chance to virtually review the latest addition to Volvo Trucks' portfolio, an updated Volvo VNR Electric - capable of hauling cargo of 80 000 Pounds with zero-tailpipe emission. Even though an ocean separated us, Steve was able to give me a personal yet virtual tour of a fully digital master build of the new, enhanced model: boasting greater battery capacity on-board with 6 different battery configurations, achieving an increased energy storage of up to 565kWh, delivering an operational range of up to 440 km (275 miles). As we were conducting a full virtual review, we could evaluate the packaging of the batteries, cabling routing and wiring, and accessibility during assembly. With the two of us fully immersed in a shared collaborative virtual space, we could have used the opportunity to conduct true-to-life evaluations of component installation, general assembly or trim operations, component removal or replacement for maintenance processes, or any number of common human-machine interactions.
The two of us remained in Stuttgart and Greensboro, but collaborative virtual reviews in IC.IDO can readily connect remotely located stakeholders in a shared virtual reality. Once connected in a shared virtual workspace, the other enterprise stakeholders can evaluate proposed service processes, removal & replacement for service/maintenance, and even tooling options for assembly plants around the world. With IC.IDO, stakeholders can experience the new truck in true-to-life virtuality with real-time collision handling, flexible hoses & cables, and kinematic mechanisms, to evaluate the proposed new truck models in the same manner as a physical “master build” but without requiring the construction of physical models nor risking damage to pre-production components or injury to workers evaluating yet to be accepted procedures.
The rest of the presentation was focused on the deployment of combined ESI Group & NVIDIA CloudXR technology that helped unlock additional value of collaborative virtual workspaces at Volvo, an environment where Volvo Trucks engineers could use VR for product development on a regular basis. Personally, since software development and deployment are my expertise, I would have loved to spend more time with Steven and Volvo learning more about their journey in successfully implementing Virtual Reality and the value delivered to Volvo as a result of the development focus that fills in the rest of the presentation. Fortunately, Steven and my colleague Eric Kam will be presenting on this topic to an audience of engineers rather than software developers next month.
Don’t miss the upcoming webinar “Extending Reality to Tomorrow’s Trucks - Volvo’s Collaborative Workspaces” organized by NVIDIA and hosted by Kenneth Wong from Digital Engineering, co-presented by Volvo Trucks and ESI Group, on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 at 2:00 PM ET/ 11:00 AM PT. You can register here.
And finally, if you are interested in hearing from other manufacturing companies who embarked the VR journey with IC.IDO, please join us for the next XR LIVE event on June 15, 2022. Register here.