Also found in: Acronyms.
virtual manufacturing[‚vər·chə·wəl ‚man·ə′fak·chər·iŋ]
The modeling of manufacturing systems using audiovisual or other sensory features to simulate or design alternatives for an actual manufacturing environment, or the prototyping and manufacture of a proposed product using computers. The motivation for virtual manufacturing is to enhance people's ability to predict potential problems and inefficiencies in product functionality and manufacturability before real manufacturing occurs. See Manufacturing engineering, Model theory
The concepts underlying virtual manufacturing include virtual reality, high-speed networking and software interfaces, agile manufacturing, and rapid prototyping.
Virtual reality is broadly defined as the ability to create and interact in cyberspace, that is, a simulated space that represents an environment very similar to the actual environment. The subset of virtual reality that is used in virtual manufacturing is commonly known as virtual environment. The perceived visual space is three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional, the human-machine interface is multimodal, and the user is immersed in the computer-generated environment; the screen separating the user and the computer becomes invisible to the user. The virtual environment for virtual manufacturing is simulated through immersion in computer graphics coupled with an acoustic interface, domain-independent interacting devices such as wands, and domain-specific devices such as steering and brakes for cars or earthmovers or instrument clusters for airplanes. See Virtual reality
High-speed networking and software interfaces are concerned with computer-aided-design (CAD) model portability among systems, trade-offs of high-detail models versus real-time interaction and display, rapid prototyping, collaborative design using virtual reality over distance, use of the Web for small- or medium-business virtual manufacturing, use of qualitative information (illumination, sound levels, ease of supervision, handicap accessibility) to design manufacturing systems, use of intelligent and autonomous agents in virtual environments, and the validity of virtual reality versus reality.
Agile manufacturing integrates an organization's people and technologies through innovative management and organization, knowledgeable and empowered people, and flexible and intelligent technologies. Virtual manufacturing provides a model for making rapid changes in products and processes based on customer requirements, and an agile manufacturing system attempts to implement it.
Rapid prototyping is an area in which virtual manufacturing has made an impact in processes such as stereolithography, selective laser sintering, and fused deposition modeling. A CAD drawing of a part is processed to create a layered file of the part. The part is built one layer at a time, precisely depositing layer upon layer of material.
Global virtual manufacturing extends the definition of virtual manufacturing to include the use of the Internet and intranets (global communications networks) for virtual component sourcing, and the use of virtual collaborative design and testing environments by multiple organizations or sites.