As part of the TDI project, Novint developed a new and unique haptic rendering algorithm that allows touch interaction with less than perfect digital models. This capability is significant in that it allows haptically enabled evaluation much earlier in the product design cycle. This algorithm allows touch feedback to generate fingertip interactions with virtual models more realistically. We also added the ability to read Alias Wavefront (i.e., *.obj) format files and stereolithography format files to our collection of CAD surface model readers.
Currently, as part of some tire manufacturing processes, an artist takes two-dimensional CAD drawings and literally sculpts a large (e.g., can be as large as 15 feet in diameter for tractor tires) plaster model. The model is evaluated using sight and touch and is physically modified as required. Tire design personnel take measurements and run their hands across it to evaluate curves and angles. The model is then used to develop the actual molds for the tires. The plaster model building process is expensive and is prone to human error. A plaster model can cost approximately $400,000 to develop and several plaster models may need to be built during the tire design and manufacturing process. Sometimes a company will even move forward with a known flawed design because it is too expensive to re-build the plaster model.
Our Instant Prototyping technology will allow tire manufacturers to significantly decrease the cost and time required to develop new tires. Users will be able to see and feel their designs in the digital realm so that fewer plaster models will need to be built. Moreover, our technology will allow tire design personnel to evaluate and modify their designs in ways that are not currently possible. Our software will automatically load in the 2D tread designs and instantaneously create a virtual prototype. Designers will have the same evaluation capabilities as with a plaster model and digitally enabled enhancements as well. A designer will be able to feel across a tread, feel the transition to the sidewall, and take measurements with specially designed virtual tools. If errors are found, digital design tools can be used to modify the 3D virtual prototype. After a digital tire model is evaluated and modified, our software can be used to output to an automated manufacturing system, eliminating much of the human error that is currently part of the tire design and manufacturing process.
Our software will save hundreds of thousands of dollars for each tire that is designed and manufactured while helping remove errors and flaws. Longer term, our technology can be used on outputting to an automated manufacturing system to create molds, and even rapid artistic design.