Submitted by DELMIA/Dassault Systemes and Written by Jack Thornton, MINDFEED Marcomm
Computer simulation has taken a flying leap, so to speak, into immersive engineering with motion capture and virtual reality (VR) in the Ship/Air Integration Lab (SAIL) at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. The Lockheed Martin facility, in Fort Worth, Texas, is also the home of the F-35 Lightning II (previously the Joint Strike Fighter or JSF), for which SAIL was developed.
What does this have to do with servicing military aircraft and on board aircraft carriers? Everything.
After about 40 simulations, quantified benefits have reached $75 million and will pass the $100-million mark sometime in 2007, management says, adding that the return on investment (R-O-I) is headed for 15-to-1. More importantly, SAIL is establishing the credibility of Lockheed Martin, traditionally a U.S. Air Force supplier, with the U.S. Navy.
The “flying leap” is from five-foot diameter hemispherical hoods (like little IMAX theaters) into a room-sized CAVE VR shorthand for a graphical rendering room. At SAIL the term is also an acronym for “Cave Automatic Virtual Environment.” Literally and perceptually, SAIL leaves desktop computer screens back at the dock. As a representation of the physical world of a large ship, the CAVE lacks only tactile feedback and the smell of the sea.
SAIL’s heart is ENVISION software (Versions 4 and 5, Release 16) for assessing mechanical interferences in or on aircraft–carrier hangar decks and flight decks—and even on conventional airfields. ENVISION is from DELMIA, Auburn Hills, Michigan, the digital manufacturing brand of Dassault Systèmes, Suresnes, France. The engineering data comes from CATIA V4 and V5 computer-aided design (CAD) system, also a Dassault Systèmes product. Nearly all SAIL integration work was done with the DELMIA Tools module.
SAIL presents information more realistically than ever before—lifelike, life-sized, panoramic 3D, and rendered stereographically for depth perception. The engineering data in SAIL comes directly from Lockheed Martin’s CAD systems so dimensional accuracy is unquestioned. Rather than confronting data on a desktop computer monitor, SAIL immerses users in it—hence the term “immersive engineering.” But they are never overwhelmed by the data or buried in it.
In SAIL’s immersive engineering environment, all this digital data has been:
• Kinematically enhanced, a DELMIA technical VR breakthrough. Widely used in workplace ergonomics, kinematic angle-and-vector calculations replicate the movement of the human shoulder, arm, wrist and hand plus every other joint from head to foot. In robotics, kinematics accounts for the X-, Y- and Z-axis travel in the 3D work envelope plus the roll, pitch and yaw of the tool-grasping end effecter (analogous to the human shoulder and wrist).
• Rendered in real-time by linking SAIL’s motion capture (“Mocap”) to the VR environment of the CAVE.
• Integrated with Mocap, kinematics, simulation and VR to an unprecedented degree, which makes SAIL unique.
“From the business standpoint at Lockheed Martin, SAIL is all about affordability,” explained Michael R. Yokell, senior manager, F-35 Basing & Ship Suitability, or BASS. Yokell developed the requirements for SAIL, evaluated the tools and level of integration needed, and led the business-case justification. The 15:1 R-O-I is calculated on a total SAIL investment—acquisition and development plus operation through mid-2007—of less than $5 million.