In Depth: Designing in Virtual Reality

With daily advances in technology, it is unsurprising that the complete sensory experience that is ‘virtual reality’ has such an impact on our lives.

No longer just a tool used to draw in the online gamer or consumer, this exciting piece of technology has started to influence, and enhance, the possibilities in ship design and construction. Imagine a one-stop shop for maritime engineering, where you can find all disciplines on Technical University and higher vocational education level, and be able to truly interact: Utopia for most ship owners.

“The challenge is to break the stereotype of the shipbuilding industry being a traditional craft,” explains Cor Lettenga, Managing Director of DEKC Maritime B.V.

“By utilising the easily accessible platforms accepted for modern day gaming consoles, our company has found a way to make our extensive knowledge more readily available to the shipbuilding and shipping market. Converting complete 3D ship models into a gaming platform means the client can literally ‘walk through’ their future vessel
to experience the functionality of the design. They don’t require high-end computers, dedicated design software or viewers – simply any gaming console in combination with a virtual reality headset.”

Evolutions in name and knowledge

Initiated in 1972 as an integrated detail-engineering department of a renowned Groningen manufacturer of steel building kits, the semi-independent engineering company launched as an independent divestiture in October 1990. After several name changes, they became DEKC (Design Engineering Knowledge Center) Maritime in July 2017.

“The latest name change is due to change in ownership. With this turnaround, we were given the chance to supplement our scope – to allow for a one-stop shopping experience for maritime design knowledge, unique in the Netherlands. Offering the complete package of design, engineering and operational support services, our company is based on four pillars: Naval Architecture, Structural Design, Detail Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. We do not envisage growth, but rather promote stability, quality, and strong client relationships,” Lettenga added.

Addressing the needs of the industry

“Offering clients this convenient one-stop shop concept allows them to choose from a wide range of maritime engineering services, which even includes operational support for ships or offshore vessels/units already in service,” Cor Lettenga explains.

“It’s what shipping companies, operators and ship owners are looking for. The benefit for the client is having a reliable partner, providing convenient and efficient services, saving them a lot of time and effort compared to visiting a separate institution for each area of need. It also gives them a sense of flexibility, having an ‘expert external co-maker’ available on call, whilst not having to invest in the expansion of their own resources.”

All involved types of work and technical disciplines, including programme management, planning, and work preparation, are fully integrated and coordinated by DEKC. Clients benefit by having one point of contact and the process with all associated communication, is taken out of their hands. There are also savings to be made by investing in a total package from one supplier. In short: complete care.

Experience the design functionality

Lettenga summarises: “Virtual reality is developing fast, and in five to ten years it will be an integral part of people’s lives. We are already seeing these developments within the consumer markets for kitchens and cars. In modern day shopping, people want to walk around a real size, 3D kitchen set-up, and interact with objects. Likewise, when buying a car, it is very common that we use a car configurator.

“These same technologies should become available in day-to-day shipbuilding practice, and we combine these modern technologies with the skills and craftsmanship of 45 years of experience. This expansion to a more customer-oriented way of working was made in the name of co-creation. Virtual reality engineering embraces 3D modelling tools and visualisation techniques as part of the design process.

“Enabling people to view their project in 3D, and gain a greater understanding of how it works, gives ample opportunity to spot any flaws, or potential risks, prior to execution. With regular review at various stages to check for faults, structural weaknesses, and other design issues, virtual reality can assist throughout the entire design lifecycle – from initial concept, through to build, implementation and operation.”

This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #4– 2017.

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