For ages, the only way to manufacture products – with additive or subtractive methods – was to start with a CAD model that you would make using 3D design software, like SOLIDWORKS. Of course software such as SOLIDWORKS are incredible tools, allowing extreme ease-of-use and high customization possibility for designers and engineers across a multitude of industries. However, have you ever asked yourself why we create three dimensional models, on two dimensional computer screens? Well, as it turns out, this may just be a thing of the past.

Since their recent inception, the now viral technology of Virtual Reality (VR) goggles, offered by a plethora of different companies, have primarily been used for never before seen interactivity within video games, educational graphical interfaces, and more. VR goggles such as Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Microsoft HoloLens provide consumers with a whole new world of interaction and entertainment with their astounding holographic technologies.

Google Earth App – Google CardBoard

Dassault Systèmes C.A.V.E. Upgrades –  HTC Vive

Various VR Video Games – Oculus Rift

“Mixed Reality” Widgets – Microsoft HoloLens

Now, one of the most promising applications found for this technology is VR design, being able to create entire 3-Dimensional models with little more than just your goggles, and printing it right off of your 3D printer.

The truly fantastic feature about these technologies is their open-sourced nature, allowing amateur and professional programmers alike to create new and inventive apps for these systems, pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the technology every day. Examples of this are the duo behind VRCLAY for Oculus Rift, and the tech giants who have created HoloStudio for Microsoft HoloLens.

Last year during the Microsoft HoloLens product launch, the Director of Studio Business designed a drone on stage using HoloStudio, using only her fingertips.

There is also an excellent case study of Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) using the combination of Virtual Reality and 3D Printing to design and generate models of future hospitals. They realized that using 3D models of future hospitals and clinics allowed their team to communicate with each other, understand the project, and make decisions in a much more efficient manner. Joining these two technologies has also allowed MSF to enable their doctors in the field with the capability to construct the best facilities available by creating a more intuitive and interacting design process.

A new trend is emerging; design work without a computer. This ability to create models out of thin air and directly send them to a 3D printer is a huge deal, due to the fact that it is significantly bridging the gap between an idea and physical reality.

Like other open-sourced platforms, the wave of VR applications are tearing down barriers to entry even further, eliminating the need for a desktop to be able to design and print your work. This, of course, can be used in any manufacturing environment as well for design, as seen with the aerospace and automotive examples in the HoloLens videos below:

This technology, combined with the 3D printing technology of Stratasys, will enable manufacturers to design, redesign, and test virtually, making processes cheaper and faster than ever before.

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