Shifting to a virtual office or to a virtual engineering laboratory is a good opportunity to evaluate your business practices and find out where you can make improvements. Whether you are a home-based business who wants to embrace a more professional edge, or a start up company that needs a low-cost laboratory solution with a high-end look, a computer-generated environment that facilitates multidisciplinary collaborative product development may help. When you’re ready to make the leap, here are five steps to ensure that you make the most of going virtual:

  1. User-centered virtual reality visualization techniques.
    When presented with a familiar and natural interface, complex three-dimensional data becomes more understandable and usable, enhancing the user's understanding. Coupled with an appropriate expert (e.g., a design engineer, a plant engineer, or a construction manager), virtual reality can reduce design time for better solutions.
  2. Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM).
    Today nearly all aspects of a digital design simulation require extensive off-line setup, calculation and iteration followed by interactive analysis and engineering. The time required for each iteration can range from one day to several weeks and may very well exceed the time that is available for an adequate solution. This includes techniques such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Finite Elements Analysis (FEA), and optimization of complex systems.
  3. Computer Aided Engineering (CAE).
    Integration of real processes into the virtual environment. Engineering is more than analysis and design. A methodology for storage and rapid access to engineering analyses, plant data, geometry, and all other qualitative and quantitative engineering data related to plant operation still needs to be developed.
  4. Engineering decision support tools.
    Virtual engineering shares many characteristics with software engineering, such as the ability to obtain many different results through different implementations. Automatic goal-driven optimization, cost analysis, scheduling, and knowledge-based tools need to be integrated into the engineering processes.
  5. Make use of your shared resource facilities.
    Smart companies select consolidated distributed computing and storage infrastructures for utility computing on a pay per use basis. The task of system and software administration is best left to the provider. An often overlooked issue is the cost of licensing. Generally, ISV software is two orders of magnitude more expensive than the hardware it runs on which is a strong indication for a pay per use model as well.


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