Safran Nacelles' successful application of virtual reality in the production of A330neo nacelles has earned the company an innovation award from parent company Safran.
Chosen from 93 projects submitted by Safran group companies and businesses in this year's Innovation Awards competition, Safran Nacelles' use of virtual reality was selected based on its benefits already demonstrated with the A330neo programme, as well as the promise for future uses across its product line.
Safran Nacelles' first application of virtual reality was the conception of a final assembly moving line for the A330neo nacelle's transcowl.
Working with France's ESI Group (a leading innovator in virtual prototyping software and services), Safran Nacelles set up a 4m x 2.5m "cave" at its Le Havre headquarters and production facility. This installation enables life-sized 3D images of objects and environments defined by computer-aided design (CAD) to be projected, thereby creating a virtual workspace for realistic interaction.
By immersing themselves in the 3D images, Safran Nacelles team members could accurately visualize the tooling needed on the production line before ordering the hardware, as well as verify the optimum ergonomic conditions for workers at each step during the transcowl assembly process, and then train those who would subsequently perform the actual assembly work.
The use of virtual reality on the A330neo programme enabled Safran Nacelles to reduce the nacelle's development cycle from a typical 60 months to a streamlined 42 months - meeting the rapid pace required by Airbus.
Safran Nacelles says it earned its return on investment for the A330neo virtual reality's implementation in less than a year, beginning with the use of its 3D "cave" installation in at the Le Havre facility's B4 Building.
Safran Nacelles subsequently used virtual reality in preparing the assembly of A330neo thrust reversers at its Burnley, UK production site, and will apply the benefits to its other ongoing programmes and for all new projects in the future.