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Virtalis supplies advanced visualisation for Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

January 26, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
Virtalis Supplies Advanced Visualisation for Nuclear AMRC

January 26, 2012 -- Virtalis has designed and installed two Virtual Reality (VR) systems for the new Nuclear AMRC at Sheffield. The Nuclear AMRC was set up to support the nuclear supply chain for the new generation of nuclear reactors. It aims to put UK industry at the forefront of nuclear technology, both nationally and internationally.

Rab Scott, Head of Virtual Reality and Simulation at the Nuclear AMRC, explained: "The visualisation capability Virtalis has delivered will make our technology more accessible than ever before. This is because what makes the nuclear sector different is the sheer scale of components and their machining tools. We're talking about massive components weighing 40 or 50 tonnes. Any small alterations that need to be made to components that size should be made where they are manufactured, rather than at the assembly stage. We believe that our VR systems will give us an accurate, virtual prove-out, with all alterations made prior to shipping. We'll achieve this by scanning the components and dropping them into their virtual environment to check they fit with the other components in the assembly."

One of the systems at the Nuclear AMRC is a Virtalis ActiveCube. These are multi-sided VR systems that deliver an intuitive, human-scale immersive virtual experience for two to four people. Nuclear AMRC's ActiveCube has the appearance of a floating 3.2m. glass box. It is the four-sided variant with 3D virtual environments rear-projected by Christie Mirage S+3Ks, with a Mirage S+6K covering the larger floor area. Movements within the ActiveCube are tracked using an InterSense IS900 tracking system. The hand-held controller allows the immersive experience to be enhanced further. The user can navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate component parts in real-time and make decisions on the fly.

The second VR system at the Nuclear AMRC is a Virtalis ActiveWall, an immersive, interactive 3D visualisation system designed for up to 25 people to experience. It can be linked to the ActiveCube for collaborative working. The ActiveWall features InterSense IS900 tracking, a 2.8 x 4.5m Da-Lite Screen and deploys Christie Mirage WU12K-M rear projection. Both the ActiveWall and the ActiveCube come with a full suite of Virtalis immersive drivers.  "We envisage three to four people interacting in our ActiveCube with their movements within the virtual environment being watched by up to 25 more observers via the ActiveWall", commented Scott.  "We also see them being linked with other VR centres worldwide to allow us to carry out international design, manufacturing and assembly reviews, as well as complex training exercises."

Nuclear AMRC is a collaboration of academic and industrial partners from across the nuclear manufacturing supply chain. Its mission is to:

  • Enhance the capabilities and competitiveness of the UK civil nuclear manufacturing industry.
  • Work with members to develop world-leading manufacturing processes and technologies.
  • Help British manufacturing companies compete for nuclear contracts worldwide.
  • Become the focal point for Britain's civil nuclear manufacturing industry.
The Nuclear AMRC brings together the manufacturing and engineering expertise of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the nuclear and materials technology capacity of The University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute and the experience and resources of industry leaders. It is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (formerly the Technology & Innovation Centre for High Value Manufacturing). Key industrial members of the Nuclear AMRC include Rolls-Royce, Westinghouse, Areva, Sheffield Forgemasters and Tata Steel.

"The key to high end visualisation such as this making a real impact, is for it to be sharable with partners and stakeholders", summarised Scott.  "Virtual assembly is just the beginning. The ActiveCube and the ActiveWall will also be put to use in design validation, virtual training and design for maintenance. Although the systems are still awaiting final commissioning, over 25 groups of visitors have already been wowed by their power, even some who were previously sceptical.  All in all, there has been an overwhelming consensus that our Virtalis visualisation systems are valuable, 21st century engineering tools."

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