Cave of innovation

Virtual reality tech enables engineers to streamline design processes

Raytheon Australia Managing Director Michael Ward leads Head Land Systems Australian Army officer Major General Andrew Bottrell on a tour of the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment. (Photo: Commonwealth of Australia.)

It's a virtual reality environment that allows engineers to design like never before; collaborating over distances, visualising components in three dimensions before they're fabricated, even "walking through" designs that have yet to exist.

It's called CAVE; Raytheon Australia's Cave Automatic Virtual Environment.

The company  built the CAVE in 2017 to allow engineers to use virtual reality technology to streamline the research and design process and significantly reduce both lead time and costs. The visualisation and collaboration environment comprises 72 3-D video screens in a 320-degree arc, surrounding users.

“The circular arrangement of screens surrounds and visually immerses groups of a dozen or so people—just like standing in the mouth of a cave; hence the name,” said Scott Eyles, Raytheon Australia’s Customer Engagement Centre manager.

The CAVE was used to create virtual prototypes during the LAND 19 Phase 7B short-range, ground-based air defence program design—reducing risk, cost and resources for the Australian Army.

“Our CAVE is part of a global network that includes CAVEs in a number of US locations,” Eyles said, calling the facility the “centrepiece” of the company's Customer Engagement Centre in Canberra. “The systems can connect to each other and allow Raytheon’s engineers, project managers and customers to interact and collaborate in real time. We can also deploy a portable CAVE to other sites when required.”

In the CAVE, designers create virtual prototypes of proposed systems based on the original equipment manufacturer blueprints, without the need to spend millions of dollars, and hundreds of hours of labour in fabrication, assembly and testing.

“The CAVE is used to visualise the systems using computer-aided design models in stereoscopic 3D, immersing the audience via walk-throughs, animation of subsystems, and allowing detailed interrogation and near-life-sized representations of each vehicle and subsystem,” said Will Taylor, Raytheon Australia’s Naval and Joint Domain lead.

The CAVE was an essential part of the design process for Raytheon’s LAND 19 Phase 7B proposal— a project to provide short-range, ground-based air defence and counter rocket artillery and mortar sense, warn and locate technology for the Australian Army.

“Ultimately, the CAVE allowed us to meet our LAND 19 objectives, with the final cost of using the CAVE versus the usual approach of creating real-world prototypes and coming in at about one-tenth of the cost of building physical prototypes,” Taylor said.

The LAND 19 proposal, based on the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, achieved second-pass approval by the Australian Government in early 2019. It will defend deployed forces against indirect weapons, air-to-surface weapons, cruise missiles, and aircraft when it enters service in the early 2020s.

Central to the Land 19 project is Raytheon Australia’s ability to assemble and integrate the entire system in South Australia.

Published On: 06/06/2019
Last Updated: 07/18/2019