Faced with mounting unemployment during the recent recession, Wichita State University (WSU) set out to create a place to collaborate and innovate on its campus. The school hoped to create a space for innovators to work, invent and refine. WSU tapped integration firm Mechdyne Corp. to help accomplish that lofty goal.
In 2014 the team at Mechdyne joined WSU’s Innovation Project group. According the university, Mechdyne was chosen due to its holistic approach to working with the customer — providing design, build and support — as well as past projects that were technologically forward thinking.
What WSU stakeholders had in mind was something they called their 3DExperience Center. It was envisioned to provide a place for south Kansans with a facility to come and experience their vision in a 3D virtual reality world. This would allow manufacturers the ability to conceptualize a new product or design, “see” it in 3D and make design or functional changes to the product.
Creating a new product is costly. The mock-up process itself can run into the millions. You create a prototype, have it custom machined or manufactured, and then adjust. Do this enough times and your costs will skyrocket. Even 3D printing of prototypes can sometimes raise the overall cost of a project. If you are a startup or entrepreneur with an innovative idea but no money, this can become a roadblock to your success.
WSU’s vision was to give both established manufacturing as well as upstarts a facility to create and adjust in real-time but in a virtual space. The cost savings were significant and the innovation the facility has the potential to foster would help the local economy by providing jobs — something badly needed in the area.
The longest and detailed part of the project was the RFP process. This is where WSU laid out its vision, and Mechdyne interpreted it using its experience in other immersive installations to help WSU realize its goal.
From that process Mechdyne laid out the plan, and installed, the largest Flex immersive visualization system ever put in by the company. This is a double-wide, fixed front wall at 18 3/4-foot wide x 10-foot tall. There are two hinged side walls standing 10 feet tall as well as three rear-projection screen systems.
The floor is also a display surface as well. The system makes use of both HD and 4K resolutions. The side walls are in HD while the floor and center wall are projected in 4K.
As indicated by the name, the Flex system provides WSU with a few options:
- A flat wall display for presentation or data review
- An angled theater for team collaboration, video conferencing, or multiple data sets
- L-shape for immersive 3D model and data display
- Immersion room for spatial structures, exploration, training, and situational awareness
Mechdyne also provided an integrated optical tracking system including eight optical tracking cameras, a glasses-mounted optical tracking target, one rack-mounted tracking PC, tracking software, and Mechdyne Trackd middleware software.
Other software included is Mechdyne’s Meeting Canvas, Conduit for Catia v5 and Ansys, and getReal3D for Unity. An integrated 5.1-channel surround-sound system and video conferencing system round out the new technology pieces.
The WSU facilities team was brought in to help with this project to reduce costs where they could.
The electrical, HVAC, and lighting system had to be modified to accommodate such an installation. Mechdyne worked with the university’s team to make certain these changes were made to spec. In doing so WSU realized savings to the bottom line of the project and Mechdyne was able to have real vision on where they were in meeting the deadline.
The Mechdyne team was able to come in and quickly install the system at a reduced cost to the client. Once the system was fully commissioned, WSU set about playing host to a number of visiting dignitaries.
From middle school students to the heads of local OEMs, the reaction to this new, immersive facility has been overwhelmingly positive. The 3D space will help manufacturers alleviate the pain of creating new product mock-ups while also shorten the product development time.
WSU sees this 3DExperience Center as the centerpiece and forerunner of what is to come at the WSU Innovation Center.
End User Takeaways:
- 1. Choose integrators with track records in related applications that might help generate ideas.
- 2. Facilities team helped with project reduced costs where they could.
- 3. Communicating with the integrator combined with assisting on the installation made it easier for the project to stay on schedule.
Digital Projection video projection, Crestron controls, Shure wireless microphones, Barco ClickShare presentation system