Tractor assembly line

From the NGRAIN team

In a recent discussion, we were asked what makes Producer Pro special for training, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of complex equipment?   Because this question was asked of the people who helped create the software, you know it won’t be a short answer!  However, the high level answer would be two-fold:

  • The underlying 3D voxel engine which enables some very useful capabilities for Producer Pro.
  • The design philosophies behind building the Producer Pro application:
    • Make it very simple and obvious to use such that the subject matter expert (mechanic, instructor) can use the software directly, without having an intermediate 3D graphics or scripting / coding specialists in between, which can often result in delays and lost-in-translation errors.
    • Speed of production for our users must be fast, accurate, and without bottlenecks anywhere during the production cycle. There is nothing worse than being 95% done production but cannot reach 100% unless you start over the work again.  NGRAIN had a full team doing many productions for multiple years, so that bottlenecks are eliminated from the product.
    • Ease of deployment on multiple platforms.

Let’s discuss some example capabilities that the 3D voxel engine enables Producer Pro.

Data Fusion and Visualization Modes

It is becoming much more common that applications need to ingest and integrate data from many different input sources and visualize all the data in a single system – this is commonly referred to as data fusionThe good news is that a voxel representation is something that just about any 3D geometric representation can easily convert to, thus making data fusion feasible.  For example,  with the release of the Smithsonian X 3D set, we were able to easily absorb the data in DICOM, STL, OBJ, point cloud formats, and view all of them in Producer Pro (see an older post).  In fact, we can visualize more than the typical viewer, such as hairline fractures as seen in Figure 1, due to visualization in x-ray mode.

Producer Figure 1

Figure 1. What can be seen in a standard viewer (left), and notice the hairline fractures in our application (right).

Level of Detail and Data Compression

Getting to the desired level of detail for good enough visual quality and performance reasons (i.e. what games content creators have to do manually) can be very time consuming if a non-voxel format is being used.  In fact, it is common that the content may need to be entirely recreated from scratch just to fit the desired level of detail.  With our voxel engine, any level of detail can easily be converted to.  This permits a very data-intensive model to be converted to a lower and desired level of detail in voxel form with just a button push, without any need for manual repairs, and often resulting in huge data-compression ratios.  The data-intensive model usually comes from manufacturing-ready CAD data or heavy point cloud data as a result of detailed scans.

IP Protection

Another related advantage of the desired level of detail comes in the form of IP protection.  The above single-button-push conversion process can result in a level of detail where the model is still visually recognizable but not reverse-engineerable.  This gives the ability of manufacturers to deploy the model to their clients without releasing any IP (the manufacturing-ready CAD or point cloud).  This capability has been used, for example, for General Dynamics Land Systems.

Multiple Geometry Representations

Producer Figure 2

Figure 2. Drill holes rendered as 3D vectors.

Most MRO software does not support different geometry representations, such as 3D vector rendering and interactions, which can be very useful in training and visualization situations.  For example, as used with our partner MapTek, drill holes are indicated by 3D vectors, and the color of each segment indicates the make-up of the minerals in that segment.  See Figure 2.  Note that the 3D visibility is properly integrated with the entire system.  3D vectors are efficient here because there can be many drill holes which need to be visualized in real-time, and there is no need to incur 3D geometric model costs (voxels or polygons) for such visualization.  The same 3D vector capability has also been used with our work with Lockheed Martin, where the vectors are used to represent seams and fasteners on a F-35 aircraft.