Virtual reality brings former oat mill to life

Virtual reality brings former oat mill to life

Date: Monday 11 May 2015

News Virtual reality brings former oat mill to life

A cutting-edge virtual reality and computer simulation suite at the Manufacturing Technology Centre has been used to bring a 17th century Scottish oat mill to life.

The VR facility at the Coventry-based MTC, usually used when planning factory processes, was used by Hickman & Smith Architects to visualise the quarter-million pound restoration of the mill overlooking Loch Ken near Castle Douglas.

The owners wanted to keep the main features of the derelict stone mill, including the water wheel and kiln, while turning it into a modern energy-efficient home. The Leicester-based architectural practice came up with the idea of visualising the design, complete with stunning views over the loch, using the MTC’s virtual reality technology. Hickman & Smith Architects were able to access this technology through the CASiM2 programme, which offers manufacturing SMEs in the West Midlands the opportunity to test and trial new products and ideas using virtual simulation technology.

The MTC’s fully-immersive CAVE facility enabled the architects and owners to visualise the design and experience the environment as if it were real. Using IC.IDO software from Cannock-based ESI, the 3D architectural design was imported into the VR environment, allowing the client to see exactly how the mill would look and walk through the rooms in the restored building. Use of the VR facility saved time and cost in design changes, and ensured that the final design conformed exactly to the owner’s vision.

Owner Bob Panther said:

“Walking around our virtual mill showed us where the design met our objectives and allowed us to adjust the design to improve the quality of the building, and reduce building costs at the same time. We amended the VR model by lowering the upstairs living area walls, and within 10 minutes the changes were made to integrate window seats on top of the thick stone walls and allow much improved views over the local countryside. It was clear to see exactly how Hickman & Smith Architects were converting our vision into reality.”

Virtual reality can deliver major benefits to the construction industry, according to experts at the MTC. Recently more than 70 construction consultants, project managers, architects and facility managers attended a conference at the MTC’s Ansty Park headquarters to hear how virtual reality and simulation can take significant costs out of building projects while shortening timescales.

Group Technology Manager for Manufacturing Simulation and Informatics at the MTC Jonathon Shaw said virtual reality simulation was a routine part of factory planning, but it had potential benefits across all construction projects.

“It provides the opportunity to reduce costs by making decisions earlier in the project life, it identifies any problem issues early in the design process, it speeds up decision-making and generally helps stakeholder understanding across the whole project life cycle,” he said.


New high spec equipment and software for research projects is continually coming into the business. This gives many training opportunities and with work being so varied I don't think I would ever have the opportunity to get bored at the MTC. The MTC is also very determined to progress engineers to chartered status. This supports my development but also awards me with an internationally recognised qualification.
Mehul Parmar
MTC Assembly Systems