Virtual Reality Software to Prevent Safety Issues in Industrial Facilities

Unlocking Operator Knowledge

3D building models, commonly known as BIM, have helped propel the design and construction industry into the 21st century by giving them an easier way to generate blueprints, material lists, schedules, and renderings. However, the tools used to design those 3D plans are difficult to use for plant operators and facility teams who will eventually be running those facilities for the majority of the building lifecycle, which can be decades. Operators have years of field expertise that make them well qualified to assess hazards and risks during the design process, but it’s difficult to tap into this knowledge by reviewing flat blueprints or a 3D model on a screen.

This lack of usability prevents the building owner from adequately reviewing new plant designs for safety, maintenance and security issues. This issue is only made worse by extremely tight construction deadlines, leading facility teams to give up on reviews and accept the reality that they'll have to fix problems later, or let the issues impact OpEx.

One Small Step for VR, One Giant Leap for O&M

Newly developed virtual reality tools allow operators and facilities teams to easily simulate future operations in their 3D construction plans for the first time, allowing them to quickly catch safety and maintenance issues missed in existing 3D review tools. For example, in facilities that deal with dangerous chemicals, like pharmaceutical or water treatment plants, you can simulate an emergency eye wash procedure and reveal a trip hazard near an eye wash station. If someone gets chemicals in their eye they could trip while running to the eye wash station and be severely injured. Issues like this are not caught by automated clash detection tools such as Autodesk Navisworks but are clearly visible when walking the facility in VR.

Another common issue found in VR is an inaccessible valve detected during a simulated maintenance procedure. Reaching for a valve in VR may reveal something out of reach or awkwardly obstructed. This could cause unexpected delays during emergency shutdowns or put operators in danger when trying to shut down a high pressure valve without adequate grip. Hopefully an emergency shutdown is an unlikely scenario, but you want to mitigate all risk that may lead to a shutdown or prolong one. Due to VR's greater ability to simulate operations procedures, teams using Resolve are finding 10x more operational issues than those using traditional 3D model review tools.

Providing facility teams access to their 3D plant models in VR gives them a fighting chance to mitigate issues under tight construction deadlines. And once your team has access to a virtual plant model, future use cases such as security planning, operator training, onboarding, and retrofit planning also become possible.

Back to the Future

Before Resolve, complex 3D plant models were not accessible in wireless virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 due to the limited computing power. If you wanted to view a 3D plant model you'd have to setup a specialized computer and connect a VR headset to that computer via HDMI and USB which meant that you needed special rooms to use VR. This kind of setup does not scale to large teams, especially not distributed ones. You need wireless, dedicated devices to succeed in practical deployments.

With Resolve, the entire 3D plant model stays up to date in a wireless VR headset without any extra work from the engineer or contractor. No need to cut up the model or export portions for VR. Model changes are automatically synced to VR from centralized 3D model hosting services such as Autodesk Construction Cloud/BIM 360. All reviewers need is a $300 VR headset and a wifi connection to easily access these models from home. This is possible only due to specialized rendering techniques Resolve developed to get complex 3D facility models to work on wireless VR devices.

Virtual reality unlocks the potential of existing digital assets. Beyond just using VR to simulate operations during construction, VR will extend the value of BIM far into the building lifecycle for many still unexplored use cases.

Want to try simulating your facility's procedures before construction? Request access to Resolve here: