If you’ve been keeping up with our previous posts, you now know what Reality Computing is all about, including its constituent components and the value it can bring to companies and organizations. But how are forward-thinking organizations across industries actually using Reality Computing?
Industry ramifications of Reality Computing
The answer, of course, varies by industry and company—based on their existing tools, processes, and business relationships. Below are a few examples of how organizations are capturing physical information digitally using a variety of different technologies. How they are working directly with this captured reality data using digital tools that do not require them to turn the scanned data into modeled geometry. And how they are putting that data back to work in the physical world through 3D printing or other numerically controlled production or visualization technologies.
Automotive factory design and manufacturing
Volvo Cars no longer tries to maintain as-built geometrical models of the manual assembly cells for their plants because the models are expensive to develop, immediately out of date, and lose the rich detail captured with the reality data. Instead, they scan existing assembly cells and the resulting point cloud is their digital plant. Rather than interrupting production to move physical mockups through an assembly line, Volvo Cars uses a combination of reality-captured and modeled data (of new assembly components and car bodies) to simulate and verify production processes for new models.
Building construction and maintenance
McCarthy Building Companies is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center by not modeling as-built conditions. Instead, they are laser scanning the construction at key milestones for a higher level of detail and accuracy than would ever be possible in an as-built 3D model. If they (or the hospital’s facility group) need to go back into a completed section of the hospital for additional work, these scans will help them perform ‘arthroscopic surgery’ on the facility—using a hole saw to access the services in the wall instead of closing down an operating or patient room to open up the wall.
Stiles Corporation used Reality Computing to coordinate the installation of an 8.5-ton chiller during the renovation of a performing arts center in Florida. To limit the center’s downtime, the firm used scanned reality data of the facility’s existing mechanical room and the access hallway, combined with a digital design model of the chiller, to perform 4D clash detection and carefully plan the movement of the new unit.
Terrametrix paired mobile LiDAR scanning with powerful feature recognition technology for a survey of over 7,200 bridges for the California Department of Transportation. This resulted in increased safety for the survey workers and a sizeable reduction in survey information turnaround time: from one month to one day.
Weaver-Bailey Contractors has started to replace conventional, manual survey and control methods in their highway construction business with grading and paving equipment controlled directly by digital design files, GPS, and laser control systems. By forming the physical highway directly from digital information on a six-mile stretch of Highway 67 in Arkansas, they expect a 40 percent reduction in labor and reduced material overruns from as much as 30 percent to 2 percent or less.
After thousands of hours of operation, the individual blades in a turbine or jet engine are worn but in balance with the rest of the fan. Businesses that specialize in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of this kind of equipment are often required to repair a damaged blade. But the work must match the worn state of the original, and therefore the original design models cannot be used. Instead, they scan the existing blade and use numerically controlled machines and specialized welding techniques to repair areas to the original, worn contours.
Nike engineers modified a computer-controlled sweater knitting machine to manufacture the upper portion of one of their newest products—the lightweight Nike Flyknit. As the shoe is digitally stitched, the materials can be modified to alter the shoe’s strength or flexibility.
Align Technology’s Invisalign system uses digital modeling software and 3D printing for mass customization of clear, removable aligners that are used to straighten teeth. The system uses x-rays, pictures, and impressions—and more recently 3D digital scans—of a patient's teeth and mouth to create a digital model. This model is used to develop a treatment plan and produce 3D-printed custom-fit orthodontic appliances.
Healthcare providers and manufacturers use Reality Computing to produce medical solutions customized to individual patients such as orthodontic braces (mentioned above), orthopedic insoles, hearing aids, and hip implants. Doctors are also starting to use Reality Computing to create 3D-printed replicas of anatomy that help them plan and prepare for difficult operations. For example, a team of pediatric heart surgeons in Kentucky studied a polymer 3D-printed replica of a 14-month-old baby’s heart prior to surgery to repair the child’s heart defects.
In addition, 3D scanning and printing is being used to create custom surgical implants. For example, doctors in Wales successfully performed reconstructive surgery on a man disfigured in a motorcycle accident. CT scans were used to create a 3D-printed skull used for surgical planning, surgical cutting guides used during the operation, and a medical-grade titanium implant to hold the bones in their new shape.
Our next post envisions some future scenarios and wraps up our introduction to Reality Computing.