We report on our experience using the Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) to collaborate on the design and manufacture of an artifact transport system (ATS). Specifically designed for the purpose of transporting nanometer-scale dimensional artifacts at pressures ~10 -8 Pa, the ATS consists of a transport cart and an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) system. As its name implies, the ATS is designed to transport an atomically-accurate specimen created in a molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) laboratory to a scanning tunnel microscope (STM) laboratory across the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus, where metrologists verify atomic-scale measurements. The project team involved between 15 and 20 participants - designers, engineers, physicists and manufacturers - and each individual was involved with the design and assembly of the ATS to varying degrees. After the project engineers developed their assembly models with their software tools, we exported the components and assemblies to VRML files. Thes e representations were made available, via web browsers with VRML viewers, for feedback to project team members on their own workstations, which included a variety of platforms and operating systems. The port involved characterizing the simulation''s performance over a range of parameters such as processor capability, file size, and graphics card capability. After meeting with the fabricators and physicists to determine the approximate assembly sequence of the ATS, we used a VRML editor to augment and animate the VRML files on a high-end workstation. By visualizing the animation sequence in a common facility with a videowall, participants were able to reach a consensus for the design and assembly changes needed. We conclude that VRML did help our team collaborate in the design and fabrication processes, although the technology supplemented, rather that supplanted face-to-face meetings. Our experience with VRML on multiple workstations leads us also to conclude that the language needs to be characterized to en hance easy development of engineering models and to achieve true and complete platform-independence.
Proceedings Title: Proceedings of ASME Proceedings of the 1998 Design Automation Conference
Conference Dates: September 13-16, 1998
Conference Location: Atlanta, GA
Pub Type: Conferences
Collaborative engineering, consensus, design, manufacture, simulation, teamwork, VRML