Raytheon is home to two Immersive Design Centers (IDCs), one in Tucson, Ariz., and the newest located in Andover, Mass. Each IDC features state-of-the-art CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE™) technology and is chartered to drive product excellence and accelerate time to market through use of immersive visualization and virtual reality solutions throughout the product life cycle.
The CAVE is a large-scale virtual reality environment where teams can collaborate using three-dimensional (3D) stereoscopic immersive visualization. Inside the CAVE, up to 20 participants actively support reviews of models, simulation results and data sets and collaborate in new ways to assess, evaluate and create solutions to nearly any problem in the Raytheon product life cycle.
Three-dimensional visualization “levels the playing field” by eliminating the need for all participants to understand two-dimensional (2D) technical drawings and other specifications to the same technical depth. Using the CAVE, cross-functional teams communicate using the common language of visualization, giving each participant the ability to contribute to reviews equally.
From design and systems engineers, to customers and suppliers, this added comprehension enables increased team participation and communication, better team alignment, and more informed decisions (see Figure 1). The models created as part of standard processes can now be reviewed with a broader section of stakeholders much earlier in the product life cycle.
Both CAVEs were custom built and installed at Raytheon by the Iowa-based supplier, Mechdyne Corporation. The Tucson IDC is equipped with a FLEX™CAVE, a configurable system consisting of three wall displays and one floor screen. Unlike a fixed CAVE display, the FLEX side walls can be moved independently to create new formats such as a flat wall display, angled theater, L-shape, or traditional CAVElike immersive room (see Figure 2, middle and right). The design uses a cluster of Graphics Processor Units (GPU) to drive four 3D megapixel projectors.
At the heart of the IDC in Andover, Mass. is the first-in-industry CAVE2™ technology. This second-generation CAVE, originally developed at the University of Illinois, Chicago, delivers a near-seamless, 320-degree, panoramic 2D/3D virtual environment matching human visual acuity. Seventy-two 46-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) panels are configured within a 24-foot diameter area which supports large working meetings offering a wide peripheral perspective view with high-density, simultaneous display of multiple media formats (see Figure 2, left).
Both Andover and Tucson systems can display 3D immersive models, 2D content, or a combination thereof and will also accommodate connection to users’ laptops.
The IDC provides Raytheon with several exciting synergistic capabilities including motion capture and 3D laser scanning. The powerful combination of an inertial motion capture suit and head-mounted-display adds realism and accuracy to human factor assessments, training and simulations with virtual reality and augmented reality environments. Inertial sensors in the suit provide movement data which projects a virtual avatar into a computer-aided design (CAD) model where other team members can view the 3D virtual environment and conduct user experience reviews.
CAVEs support remote connectivity between sites for simultaneous visualization and concurrent interaction with 2D/3D models within each virtual environment. This capability allows Raytheon to leverage cross-business tools between organizations and establishes a framework for enterprise, supply chain and customer collaboration.
Raytheon also utilizes two Rapidly Operational Virtual Reality (ROVR™) systems (see Figure 3), more commonly referred to as mobile CAVEs. These mobile units are self-contained visualization systems with rear projection screens which can easily display 3D imagery in a small space requirement. The rear projection technology allows full view of objects on any light-colored, flat wall surface without creating the shadows otherwise common with rear projection systems.
A ROVR can be transported in a light-duty truck to suppliers or customers and set up without tools in less than one hour, enabling 3D immersion at remote locations and facilitating real-time collaboration with design teams at Raytheon. This capability further enables collaboration on design with stakeholders, including suppliers and customers, early in the product life cycle.
Creating Value to Programs
The Immersive Design Center’s focus on applying the technology to Raytheon’s programs adds value through targeted use cases and proven visualization and collaboration methodologies. Today, the IDCs are used to support design for manufacture and assembly reviews, failure review board analyses, human factors assessments, facility layouts and training. As Raytheon continues to drive model based definition practices, the role of immersive design environments will continue to expand, enabling teams to better leverage the value inherent in our CAD models. By immersing engineers, operators, suppliers and customers together in the virtual environment, we can improve teamwork and information absorption, accelerate learning, and generate early, virtual prototyping opportunities.