Miele Strikes a New Path for Design

CAVE will assist product development in the future

Gütersloh, (PresseBox) - Miele is now using innovative ways of product development. CAVE is the abbreviation of "Computer Aided Virtual Environment". A special projection technology allows products which do not yet exist in reality to appear in a virtual world. These may then be changed, tried and evaluated in different surroundings. Miele wants to use this to accelerate the development process and to release more creative potential.

There are examples for this in other industries. In the automotive and aircraft industry, for example, for a number of years development has been taking place more and more in virtual worlds. We also cannot imagine the search for mineral resources without this technology. Miele is a pioneer for it in the household equipment sector. "The number of expensive, physical models and prototypes can be radically reduced by CAVE, and this ultimately saves a lot of time and money", Andreas Enslin, Miele's senior designer describes the essential benefit. "Furthermore, the development process is significantly accelerated. After all, as designers we are working in 3-D anyway. The new technology enables us to immediately discuss the different proposals and ideas with our colleagues from Engineering or Marketing and try things out."

CAVE, with a total cost of approx. 1.6 million Euros, is a technically highly sophisticated system, consisting of optics, electronics and software. Eight high-resolution cinema projectors with a luminance of approx. 7,000 ANSI lumen each project perspective, polarised semi-images from behind to a huge, 15 m² projection screen of black glass. This is as high as the ceiling, split into three sections and suspended at an angle of 120 degrees so that no distortion results by the deformation of the glass due to its own weight. Four head tracking cameras exactly keep track of the viewer's movements and transmit this information to a processor cluster of nine work stations, which then recalculates all 6.7 million pixels just in the moment of movement, constantly adjusting it to the changed position of the viewer. The stunning impression of a real environment or a product results from the fact that glasses with polarisation filters separate the images created by the cluster and provided with all required reflections and shadows for the left and right eye. The brain finally puts them together again to create an apparently real perspective.

While the product development and design cycle has so far been a frequently long sequence of design measures and corrective actions, a whole package of decisions can now be processed efficiently. "CAVE creates a quite different form of communication and cooperation", Andreas Enslin explains the new work procedure. "Marketing professionals, designer and engineers can now deal with one issue simultaneously. Regardless of what comes up with me as a designer or engineer, I am able to immediately try it and see if it works. As everyone is seeing the same, those people who are not directly involved in the process of development and construction can also instantly recognise the consequences and effects of decisions." This is accomplished to the extent that the Miele devices in the future will also be tested for their serviceability: You can take, for example, a virtual tool and see whether e.g. the required screws can be accessed. Defects can be correspondingly corrected directly at the computer.

The speed gained is also expected to increase the willingness to experiment, Miele's senior designer believes. "In this respect, our innovative strength will also increase. It has become much easier to try out something crazy in between." Basically, of course, the standard remains that the Miele design has to express the premium character of the products. Andreas Enslin: "Our good reputation is essentially determined by our design. This has always been so and will remain this way. We are simply improving now."

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