Virtual prototyping is a crucial activity for the development of cutting-edge technological products. In the last 20 years, CETENA has realized a proper dedicated area involved in the application of this technology for any type of ship operations, both internal ship activities and interaction between other naval units or aircraft.
Virtual prototyping also includes the study of the interactions between different types of assets, as it happens in the assessment of compatibility between ships and infrastructures or in digital forensic analyses.
Virtual prototyping provides that the design of a specific product, regardless its dimension or intended purpose, is beforehand realised as a CAD solid model to represent the geometric shape of the object and the information regarding its essential physical properties and its functional and operational specifications.
This technology allows to support the planning and design, mainly in preliminary evaluative terms. In particular, the most widespread applications are related to the evaluation of the performance of the product according to specific performance criteria and the following estimated economic impact coming from design variants.
The CAD model, properly parameterized, allows the development teams to explore design alternatives with potencially better performances, also thanks to the extensive use of Virtual Reality that allows operators to plunge into the 3D model in review and guarantees a better awareness of the situation resulting in a better decision-making ability.
These methods have been used extensively with success in several research projects in collaboration with the Italian navy Fincantieri, for instance to evaluate the efficiency of operating procedures onboard naval units or to understand the risks of interference in a shipyard.
Today engineering is moving towards a more extensive use of virtual prototyping which soon will replace all testing methods on the field that are not strictly necessary. The main advantages are:
- Faster time-to-market
Traditional methods include the construction of a physical prototype and its test in laboratory to identify the defects that require a redesign. This process entails re-configuration times that affect the development plan and must be restricted. Virtual prototyping drastically reduces costs and loss of time, operating almost exclusively in the digital domain.
- Superior quality design
Mistakes in design affect many products and are very common because it can be difficult to see them before the product is launched on market, resulting in costs of warranty, maintenance, etc. Virtual prototyping allows the development teams to increase the number, the frequency and the testing conditions to have a wider awareness of the product for the sake of its reliability.
- A more competitive product
An only tangible chain of design afflicts creativity, limiting it to contingency. The designer infact, is not free to evaluate all points of view necessary to reach maximum efficacy. Virtual prototyping instead, allows to experience freely and without risks. This kind of ecosystems leads designers to concentrate more on emerging qualities creating more competitive products.