Great design is rarely something you nail on the first attempt. Iteration is such a vital part of the creative process, and it can take many iterative cycles to refine a concept before passing final approval. If you can cut even a single day out of the design and manufacturing process, it can pay big dividends. An industry insider once told me that a single day sooner to market might be worth as much as $50M. The sooner you can test ideas and validate designs to see what works, the less resources you’ll throw away on the ones that didn’t.

Light & Shadows created this detailed virtual prototype of an AIRBUS helicopter

Virtual prototypes can simulate interfaces to work out issues before manufacturing

However, for many industries, the process of crafting and refining design concepts still moves along at a glacial pace, but savvy designers are increasingly turning to real-time technology and virtual prototypes to reduce the design-to-build time and more effectively communicate their design intent to stakeholders.

Here are four major benefits real-time brings to your production workflows.

1. Designing at the speed of thought

Imagine shaving months from your production cycle down to weeks, weeks into days, and days into hours. This is the impact real-time technology is having on the design and manufacturing experience across automotive, architectural visualization, product design, and other fields.

Design feedback happens in a variety of ways, but using traditional tools, physical models, and even offline rendered CGI can mean days or weeks of downtime between iterations and updates. Real-time engines let 3D artists implement changes rapidly with high production values and then experience the results immediately.

2. Winning over stakeholders with immersive experiences

When paired with VR and AR techniques, real-time technology and interactive 3D visualization can also create unparallelled design experiences that let clients and stakeholders become immersed in a prototype in ways that just aren’t possible with older techniques.

Why render a still image when you can have clients step into a fully visualized and furnished building, move around inside it, and pan your view a full 360 degrees in photorealistic VR before ground is even broken? This just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible with real-time techniques.

Why settle for an image when you can experience this room with Unreal?

While there will always be a need for static imagery, the new reality is that it’s now possible to bring to life a design as an experience rather than showing a blueprint or an image. We are transitioning to a future where you can author a compelling experience rather than a static image. Which is more likely to convince a stakeholder?

3. Validating designs faster and more efficiently

Finding unexpected issues in your virtual prototypes sooner in the design process can have a tremendous impact on both the costs and time it takes to bring a project from concept to creation. Where do you want to find a problem? When it can be easily rectified digitally, or when the concrete is poured and the tooling manufactured? Rapid design validation is one of the game-changing perks of working in real-time engines, and having the flexibility to iterate more freely in a 3D design space gives artists a more adaptable palette for refining their designs.

Oops. This is what happens when you haven’t thought it through.

4. Streamlining complex processes

Many consumer goods are manufactured with more than one source of CAD data. You might have many different CAD tools used internally and your suppliers might use yet a different set. This means it can be a problem to see all the data in a single place during the design process. To create a virtual prototype, all these different assets need to be brought together into an optimized VR experience - which is not yet a plug-and-play workflow - especially when you’re dealing with multiple CAD systems, tens of millions of polygons, and many thousands of parts. This is where Unreal Datasmith comes into play, allowing you to convert, optimize, and automate a process to support virtual prototypes within Unreal Engine.

As a fully-customizable platform for real-time design, Unreal Engine pairs powerful artist-friendly tools with accessible visual scripting functionality that makes bringing your creative vision to life a fast and intuitive process. 3D artists are using Unreal Engine to create high-fidelity assets and interactive design experiences with greater speed, efficiency, and flexibility. Streamlining the iterative process makes life easier for design teams, allowing projects to flow through the pipeline at a much greater speed.

Harely-Davidson is one of the many major manufacturers currently evaluating the impact of virtual prototypes for both design and sales.

Original article published at the Unreal Blog(original)