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by Tim Beissmann

Upgrades to Ford Australia’s Virtual Reality Centre in Melbourne will allow its engineers and designers to develop future vehicles in greater detail than ever before.

Teased earlier this month and due to be unveiled in the third quarter of the year, the upgrades to the Broadmeadows-based global design centre will be the first since the cutting-edge facility opened its doors in 2012.

Introducing photo-realistic ‘VRED’ software from Autodesk, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa digital innovation manager Peter Bunting said the upgrades reflected Ford’s commitment to investing in advanced technologies to create higher quality vehicles for customers.

“By upgrading to Autodesk VRED software, the Australian immersion lab will offer a higher level of visual fidelity with a display that is four times high-definition resolution,” Bunting explained. “Also, high-definition headsets will allow immersed users to experience a vehicle in full stereoscopic 3D.

“VRED software gives us phenomenal realism and allows us to examine aspects of the vehicle with detail we have not been able to realise in the past. In many ways, the assessments are more valuable than looking at a physical model.”

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Similar to a virtual ‘Second Life’ game, the technology will allow engineers and designers to experience a car just as a customer would in a showroom. Ford claims the totally immersive space created allows it to create visual clarity almost indistinguishable from a real car, promising improved vehicle quality and craftsmanship as a result.

The upgrades will also address one of the key limitations of the current lab, which is only just large enough to fit some of Ford’s larger vehicles.

“The PX Ranger is an example of a vehicle that only just fits in the current lab,” Bunting said. “Due to the size of the vehicle, it’s difficult for designers and engineers to step back and view the vehicle from a distance, just as a customer would, without running out of physical space. The new, larger lab will solve this problem.

“It’s an odd problem to have, to not have enough physical space to hold a virtual model, but all our models are scaled 1:1 so we need enough physical space in the lab to engage with the full-size virtual model.”

The Virtual Reality Centre upgrades are intended to support Ford Australia’s transition from local manufacturing (vehicle and engine production will cease by October 2016) and enhance its role as a global design hub. Ford expects to be the largest automotive employer in Australia in 2018 following the manufacturing exits of Holden and Toyota in 2017.




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