Massey Ferguson has installed a new state-of-the-art Virtual Reality (VR) suite to support tractor design and development at its Engineering Centre of Excellence in Beauvais, France.
Massey Ferguson was the first in the tractor industry to employ Virtual Reality for engineering development, and the completely upgraded software and hardware further enhances the solution originally installed at Beauvais in 2005.
Exclusively designed in-house by the Beauvais IT and Engineering teams, this latest design technique enables engineers to visualise the virtual product in a virtual landscape enabling all those involved in the development process to participate in the optimisation of new machines from an early stage.
The user is equipped with 3D glasses and the VR system projects images directly from Computer Aided Design (CAD) models onto a series of screens. Infrared cameras locate the user’s position in space in order that the images can be recalculated and ‘displayed’ around him. This gives the effect of immersing the user in a virtual universe where every detail of the tractor feels real.
“We have been employing Virtual Reality product design techniques here at Beauvais for some ten years now and this new installation makes use of the very latest developments in computer software and hardware,” explains Malcolm Shute, Vice- President Engineering at the Beauvais plant which produces Massey Ferguson tractors from 75-400hp. “Virtual Reality brings multiple benefits allowing us to validate a tractor’s design before producing physical prototypes. For example, engineers can verify the useability and accessibility of areas like the cab and controls, and check component assemblies. This increases the productivity of the product development process, decreases the number of prototypes required and enables a faster time-to-market.”
“Virtual Reality techniques help us to develop better products because we can make multiple, rapid, repeat operations to optimise our designs – something that would not be possible if we were only using traditional physical prototypes,” Mr Shute continues. “For example, we use simulations to optimise ergonomics – from vehicle interior ergonomics to the ergonomics of manufacturing and dealer servicing processes.”
“It is also a great communication tool and allows teams from different departments to gather together in this virtual tractor world and share their ideas and views of the design,” he adds. “It’s an amazing experience to see the tractor come alive like this and helps provide us with a much deeper understanding of its potential performance. In addition, the system allows us to collaborate in this virtual world on common development projects with our colleagues at our sister AGCO Engineering Centres around the world.”
The Virtual Reality upgrade project was designed, built and spearheaded in-house by the Beauvais site’s IT team led by Christophe Laplace. “This is all part of our wider ‘digital chain’ approach where we harness and deploy digital product data right through from the conception of a tractor to its development, manufacture, technical documentation and operation with the customer out in the field,” he says. “This seamless digital channel acts as a single, dynamic data repository for a particular tractor model throughout its lifetime and helps us boost quality at every stage of the process.”