3-D Simulation

A new educational process is making its way to a location near you


“Aircraft maintenance technicians don’t enter into this field to look at books, these are hands-on people interested in the operation and maintenance of a complex piece of equipment,” says Brian Hosier, director of media & technology services, Learning and Teaching Centre, BCIT. “We knew that if we were going to change our teaching program and provide our students with an industry-leading education, we would need a way to increase the practical time our students had with the engine.”

Capitalizing on their student’s affinity for computers and video games, BCIT decided to tap into the power of 3-D simulations to provide its students with a way to examine each part of the PT6A engine on a computer. To create a realistic, computer-generated model of the engine — which is so highly detailed that students can disassemble the engine right down to the last nut and bolt — BCIT used a unique software from NGRAIN called Producer to create 3-D equipment simulations that would be included in courseware and launched from the school’s Learning Management System.

The engine simulation was designed to depict the interrelationship between components, demonstrate common maintenance procedures, and evaluate each student’s knowledge. By providing students with access to the computer-based engine simulation, BCIT has now provided a way for students to review the steps in key procedures repeatedly and learn at a pace suited to their individual needs.

“Our initial evaluation of this method of teaching is showing very positive results,” says Hosier. “Students are spending more time with the virtual 3-D engines and more time reviewing the maintenance procedures they will need on the job. 3-D simulation allows our students to take advantage of the computer skills that are natural to them, increasing the proficiency in task performance.”

3-D on the job

For those of you already on the job, you’re probably thinking that you’re exempt from dealing with simulation in the workplace, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Like BCIT, aircraft manufacturers are discovering the many different applications that 3-D simulations can support. To help improve workflow for aircraft maintainers, Lockheed Martin is using simulations in its Autonomic Logistics information Systems (ALIS) software suite which ships with the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Maintainers assessing the aircraft exterior for damage use a 3-D model of the F-35 on a ruggedized Panasonic Toughbook to detail and describe the areas for repair.

Corroborating BCIT’s initial findings of improved comprehension, Standard Aero is also harnessing the power of 3-D equipment simulation to deliver complex information and procedures in a quickly referenceable and easy-to-understand format for maintainers already in the field. Standard Aero designed an Advanced Electronic Interactive Technical Manual which includes 3-D equipment simulations for the Canadian Forces maintainers working on the T-56 engine used in the Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130 aircraft. Field tests conducted to evaluate the manual and the effectiveness of the 3-D simulations showed that it indeed met its intended purpose by improving the speed and quality of tasks performed. With this new approach to on-the-job support, the Canadian Forces were able to achieve a 25 percent reduction in time to completion and an equivalent increase in the accuracy of those tasks.

“Ten years ago instructors and students alike were skeptical of the value of 3-D simulations to deliver training and complex information,” says Paul Lindahl, chief executive officer, NGRAIN. “Now, that viewpoint has done an about-face. Instructors are finding that integrating virtual equipment into training programs accelerates student comprehension of complex topics and improves the efficiency of the training. 3-D simulations deliver information in an engaging and interactive manner, which promotes better understanding and improved job performance — even on the first try.”

The 3-D experience

Around the world, aircraft manufacturers and maintenance technician training programs are channeling the ability for 3-D simulations to communicate very complex information in an easy-to-understand way. With no signs of the industry slowing and new trainees entering the workforce, we can expect to see the continued adoption of these solutions in schools, by manufacturers in their training programs, and to support maintenance of operational aircraft.

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