Virtual Reality for new product development
Assembled Electronic Solutions (AES) is one of the first SMEs in the West Midlands to reap commercial benefits as a result of the technical expertise delivered through the CASiM2 programme.
In only six years of trading, the Stratford-based electronics designer and manufacturer has already developed a strong client portfolio which includes ADI, Rolls-Royce, Moog and Goodrich, either as a direct client or serviced as part of the supply chain. Work with these clients not only provides AES with a global client base, but also reaches across a broad range of sectors which include automotive, aerospace, industrial and medical industries. AES was introduced to the CASiM2 project through the Coventry Aerospace Forum in October 2013.
AES recognised that through the CASiM2 project they would be able to access simulation technology which could provide the breakthrough to proving the concept of a new industrial machine currently being developed to address safety problems within high access operation.
The product was at CAD design stage and required physical production to test if the concept would work in reality, in addition to requiring firm commitment from the client to move to the next phase of development.
The CASiM2 project team determined that the CAVE Virtual Reality suite at the MTC could offer AES a route to test the concept product in a simulated environment. This enabled AES to precisely visualise and analyse the 3D prototype, including modelling of ultra-sonic functionality early in the design process without creating a series of expensive physical scale models. The CAVE is also a great tool to support collaborative development and this benefit was also an important factor in the success of AES’ project. AES’ client was invited to attend the CAVE modelling event and worked collaboratively alongside AES and MTC engineers to help refine the product specification during the modelling session. This enabled the final specification to be a product of supplier and client partnership which increased the client’s buy in and commitment to the project.
The use of the CAVE through the CASiM2 project allowed AES and the end client to work collaboratively to get the right end result. The project also enabled the design and development process time to be reduced, bringing the new product to the market quicker. This has not only secured a long term contract with a major PLC, but AES have expanded their plans for the product and are now looking at global opportunities.
Access to best-in-breed technology and the expertise made available through the CASiM2 project has strengthened the credibility and reputation of AES from that of a small SME engineering business to being regarded as an expert technology partner.
An additional benefit of the project was to kick start collaborative work between AES and MTC. Since this first project, the two organisations have worked closely on a number of small initiatives, sharing expertise, resource and technology. Both organisations have a better understanding of each other capabilities and can now identify further opportunities to develop technical capability.
Not only has the project resulted in significant cost and time savings by bringing the product to market early, AES expect to achieve a faster and higher return on investment. Specifically this means AES already has £300,000 of fresh orders in the pipeline and plans to double business growth in 2014.
‘The project enables SMEs to access knowledge, facilities and experts to actively work on real engineering problems and potentially find a solution, or target a larger project to make technology breakthroughs in their own businesses. Aside from the technical expertise and long term knowledge transfer, CASiM2 has helped raise the profile and reputation of AES, giving us access to R&D capabilities and the credibility to deal with PLCs.’
Nigel Maris, Managing Director - Assembled Electronic Solutions