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Kävin puhumassa puhdastilasuunnittelun seminaarissa "R3 Nordic Symposium" Virtuaalitodellisuuden käytöstä suunnittelussa.
Virtual Reality Models in Cleanroom Design
Granlund Oy, Finland
The use of Virtual Reality (VR) possibilities has increased in recent years due to technology improvements. The driving force has been the gaming industry. The construction sector has been able to benefit from the technology leaps carried out by other industries.
Building Information Models (BIMs) have been in use by architects and structural and mechanical designers since the early 2000’s. In the Nordic countries, using BIMs is a normal way to design and the construction companies are able to utilize these models quite easily.
By combining BIM processes and current VR technologies we are in the situation that the use of VR glasses can be a common means with which the design in construction projects can be promoted.
When combining the VR glasses with models, the end users can obtain a better understanding of what architects and engineers are designing than based only on combined models on a computer screen. With VR glasses on, the users can walk inside the rooms and see objects in real scale.
When the construction process goes further and we have a real environment built up, we can start using Augmented Reality (AR) possibilities. With AR, you can add objects to the camera view of tablets, phones or smart glasses. AR models can utilize the same BIMs as VR is using. Unfortunately, technology in AR systems and software still needs improvements. VR models are easy to set up but AR models need a lot more preparation to work in real-life use cases.
Examples of possible use cases with VR models in the design and construction phases:
· Checking process functionalities inside Clean Room, moving things in VR
· Checking service/maintenance possibilities
· Checking equipment/device locations in the design phase
· End user approvals/rejections to design team
· Visual inspection of different lighting environments
· Multi-user meetings inside Clean Room (attendance from multiple locations)
· Training of people (device maintenance or processes etc.)
Examples of possible use cases with AR models:
· Seeing through walls/ceilings (using BIM)
· Locating equipment/devices (with indoor location or tags attached to devices)
· Serving additional information to end user for operating devices/to follow protocols (with preloaded material in the cloud)
· Seeing additional information on top of gauges etc. (using object recognition)
· Seeing and operating virtual user interfaces on top of QR code etc.
· Using voice commands for operating AR software (if you need both hands)
Picture: Examples of functionalities in VR models
The construction process produces BIMs in multiple different formats. Efficient use of VR needs straightforward processes. Access to BIM information is available through an open BIM format called IFC (Industry Foundation Classes). All native BIM modeling software can export IFC-models and these models can be viewed through numerous other software.
Using IFC models as the basis of a VR environment is the most powerful way to create and update VR information during a construction project. With IFC, different disciplines can combine each other’s models and make their own VR models for other use cases from the same source and content.
If the whole design team is using the same native BIM software, IFC is not needed in the process. But in Finland, that’s not a normal case by any means.
Picture: VR/AR models are created from a single source
VR/AR devices are developing rapidly nowadays. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been the best VR glasses for a couple of years. Microsoft launched its “Windows Mixed Reality” platform at the end of 2017 and the cost of VR headsets decreased dramatically. Now there are multiple hardware manufacturers in the market.
Picture: Examples of Windows Mixed Reality Glasses
In the AR sector, there are many different approaches to utilize models.
The easiest way is to use your phone or tablet but in the Clean Room environment that’s not always possible. There needs to be a technology that brings the AR view to your visor or smart glasses.
One working and tested solution is using smart glasses.
Picture: Example of Smart Glasses, Vuzix M300 with Android operating system
In Granlund, we made prototype software using smart glasses with a virtual dashboard.
With that technology, the user can give a simple command using only hands to operate AR functionalities. Functionalities were made for Facility Management purposes, using cloud FM database information, but can also be made with any cloud information that has an interface to connecting data sources.
The software recognizes the hand of the user and draws a virtual dashboard on top of the hand. The user can push the buttons on the virtual dashboard and see more information about the selected topic. The user can change pages by swiping a hand in the air or give “accepted/rejected” commands with a thumb up/down. 
It is also possible to use voice recognition, but that was not tested in the Granlund prototype.
Picture: Screenshots from AR Smart Glasses
When using VR or AR models, the information inside BIMs is still very important. Therefore, access to BIM information is very important for use cases where the information of models is used. Using an open IFC format, information content is understandable to various software platforms.
With IFC, you can build a BIM environment where you can see multiple discipline models in a single, coordinated model. This kind of environment is ideal for VR purposes.
The downside of using the IFC format is that it contains static information. IFC is exported from designers’ native BIMs and is therefore always “old” information, because designers are making updates to native BIMs. In the design and construction phases this is not a big problem, because these phases are used to having iterative information flow in their processes. The designer is publishing a new IFC model, for example, every week to the construction site.
After the construction project – in the Facility Management phase – this kind of process is not possible. Updates to models must be done instantly when something has been changed. To achieve this, we need a Digital Twin of the building or clean room.
Digital Twin is a representation of a real building, its components, systems, measurements and functionalities. Digital Twin can act as a user interface for AIM (Asset Information Model) .
With static asset information from BIMs and a dynamic IoT-sensor or system information from manufacturers’ environments we can build up a system that can be monitored and updated through cloud services. Information from multiple different systems can be seen and operated through a single interface.
With possibilities in cloud software, there is a possibility to update the information in the IFC model seamlessly, without the need of opening complex native BIM software. Native BIM software is needed only when there is a change in graphical objects – you need to move a wall etc.
Using REST API technology, there is a possibility to connect multiple different systems and gather dynamic information from them.
Picture: Example of Digital Twin user interface to monitor temperature, humidity and performance of spaces. This information is also available to a VR/AR environment through REST API.
Picture: Concept of Digital Twin during facility lifetime
With Digital Twin, there are more VR and AR use cases in the future. The digital model comes alive when the user can see dynamic information of clean room in the visor or smart glasses.
1. Demo of using smart glasses with hand gestures
2. PAS 1192-3, AIM; “Asset Information Model”. Defined for guideline of using BIM models in operational phase of construction project by BSI, British Standards Institute. https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Asset_information_model_AIM