Yorkshire firm uses VR to build custom vehicles

According to a blog on the High Value Manufacturing Catapult website, this vehicle conversion firm is showing how VR can boost productivity and reduce turnaround times for designing and kitting out vehicles for customers.

Clarks Vehicle Conversions (CVC) kits out vehicles such as welfare vans, lifestyle vehicles and crew carriers. Its customers include firms such as National Rail, Enterprise and Lex Autolease.

Currently, when a job comes in for CVC, its fitters, electricians, engineers, mechanics and designers has to build a physical prototype to show the customer, who then has to visit the CVC to approve the layout before it can go into production. 

The company has demonstrated how VR technology could be used to transform the design stage of a conversion by allowing the customer to wear a VR headset and ‘build’ a virtual prototype to their own specification, rather than having to wait for a practical demonstrator to be built.

IMG Digital Software Engineer, Jake Senior used the company’s existing CAD models to recreate an empty van in the virtual world where the customer can pick items from a displayed bill of materials and place them in the van where they want them to go.  

The use of VR technology can potentially reduce the ‘order to manufacture’ turnaround time from up to six weeks down to 30 minutes, said the firm.

IMG’s project manager for SMEs, Matt Bacon, said: 

“CVC knew they wanted to utilise VR technology in regards to kitting out vans but didn’t know how to go about it or what the technology is used for, what the benefits are and which is the best tech to use. They just knew it was there, holistically.

“It was up to us within that five days to demonstrate the functionality of some of this VR kit specifically. We wanted to show them what we could do and what was achievable.”

CVC currently employs prototype build engineers to profile the inserts by hand to determine panel sizes. Instead of profiling by hand into a void on a panel and then flattening this out to convert the curved surface into a flat panel for machining, VR created digital geometries to make the process easier.

The packages of work by the IMG group were carried out during a five-day funded project that is part of the AMRC’s commitment to SME engagement, funded by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.