Over the past decades, technological advancements of virtual worlds, mainly driven by the immersive worlds of video games, have also had a significant impact on the sophistication of simulation software for real-world applications. Simulators now cover the full spectrum, from pure entertainment to replica real-world scenarios where there is a clear and present danger to life.
Today, being able to test expensive robotic equipment in context – and even pre-production – is just one benefit brought by robotics simulation software. In this blog post, we explore 5 game-changing advantages of this fast-moving technology for the remote handling industry.
1) Machinery In Context
Software, which allows you to visualise an engineered product, like a robotic arm, has been available for some time now. However, simply viewing robotic equipment in isolation tells you nothing about how it might interact with the world around it or how it might react to certain scenarios.
Rendering a complex piece of machinery as a fully functioning virtual 3D object is one thing. But putting it to work in lifelike conditions to see how it performs in a real-world environment is another thing entirely.
In the engineering phase, robotic simulation software can support the iterative development of robotic equipment without the need for multiple expensive prototypes. In the virtual world, changes can be made instantly and then robustly tested in a realistic simulated environment to assess the impact.
2) Advanced Tools For Rigorous Testing
Whether you are testing robotic arms in a nuclear environment or using a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), robotics simulation software can provide various advanced tools to help continuously monitoring and evaluating the situation at hand.
Important distance measurements can be efficiently performed in real time. If certain objects get too close to each other, or clearance becomes an issue, the software can provide warnings, visual clues or even automatically stop any pending actions to avoid collisions. It is also possible to define ‘keep out’ zones and specify distances to be maintained.
Setting up this kind of testing in the real-world would require expensive sensors and equipment. In contrast, virtual reality (VR) can realistically simulate the same scenarios in a digital environment. Furthermore, the software enables a layer of customisation over other environmental aspects, such as the lighting intensity or color-coded rendering to indicate radiation levels for example.
The user can also take a virtual camera and view the machinery from multiple angles. Not only that, it is possible to mask out elements of the virtual environment to gain a clear cross-sectional view of the operation. This is particularly useful when a robotic arm is required for delicate and tiny movements in cluttered environments such as a damaged nuclear reactor, which would be difficult or even impossible to see on a real-world camera.
3) Visibility For Actual Operations
VR simulations can also aid actual operations through the use of digital twins. In scenarios where due to environmental conditions, such as weather or turbulent water, visibility is poor, it is possible to use simulations mapped to real-world data points to view a replica of the real-world setting in the virtual world.
Robotics simulation software can also be useful when dealing with ‘what if’ scenarios. Live operations can be paused and then robotics simulation software used to test out new movements for the robotic arm. The virtual environment is a safe playground for testing out the impact of particular movements. This includes measuring things like the force exerted on particular joints in the robot, and checking to see if it is strong enough to handle the relevant loads.
With the laws of physics built-in, robotics simulation software can put highly-accurate virtual representations of real equipment through its paces, and ensure its functionality.
4) Training Applications
Most of the fundamental benefits of robotics simulation software is to provide cost-effective and accessible training. It is also location independent, meaning it can be used in training applications anywhere in the world.
Training on highly-realistic and fully functioning virtual machinery also means that real equipment does not need to be freed up for training purposes. There is no danger that real equipment will suffer damage as operators learn how to use it. At the same time, there is also no threat to the safety of the operators using it.
On top of that, there is no need for operators to travel to one specific site to undergo training, they can train remotely using their copy of the simulator, in their own time, and on-demand. Training operators can either use the GUI interfaces of the simulator or connect the same control devices as those used with actual equipment. Furthermore, depending on the current stage of the project at hand, a robotic simulator can also be used in teams with large control-room setups incorporating multiple displays and sophisticated control desks with the same interfaces and control elements as those connected to the real-world equipment.
5) Engineering Adjustments
Robotics simulation software also enables adjustments to be made as part of the engineering stage of new equipment within accurate virtual representations of real world environments.
Digital twins can also be used to test out the limitations of engineered machinery, including things like the types of material used, and what impact the weight of a picked object has on a robotic arm.
Doing this in the real-world would be expensive and time-consuming. It would necessitate the repeat building and testing of different prototypes. Compare that with the versatility and cost-effectiveness of robotics simulation software, and there’s a clear winner.
The Potential Of Robotics Simulation
Simulation software has come a long way. Today it is a cost-effective, reliable, and highly configurable solution for the engineering, development, testing, and operation of robotic equipment. At the same time, it can be used alongside real-time operations to provide better visibility as well as in the safe testing of potential scenarios before they play out in the real world.
VR4Robots from Tree C is real time interactive visualisation technology delivering a smart visual on the complete remote handling process. Find out more.