Virtual manufacturing uses computers and design programs to assist in making models, and there are many benefits to using this approach. When a new product or model is made, it is easier to create one in a computer program than to manufacture one. Virtual manufacturing programs usually contain geometric and size information about the model, so creating a model commonly also takes less time. Spare prototypes rarely need to be made, so this approach uses less overall materials. Aside from saving money by buying fewer materials, these programs also help the plant save money through having fewer tooling expenses, faster production and fewer errors.
In traditional manufacturing, a model can only be seen as a drawing, then as a complete and manufactured model. While looking at a drawing can help upper management decide whether the model will be good, it may be difficult to tell until the model is actually created. With virtual manufacturing, a complete three-dimensional (3D) model can be designed that will look exactly like the item when manufactured. This should make it easier for upper management to decide on the model’s use, and it also may be easier to fix any errors.
Not only does virtual manufacturing usually make it easier to design and approve a model, but it also makes manufacturing quicker. Most programs used to make 3D models store geometric information, so this can be used to quickly and accurately set tools to manufacture the model. Designing the model this way usually takes less time, especially if improvements are needed before manufacturing begins.
Materials are required to make prototypes and models, and some complex models that require tens or hundreds of edits can use a lot of materials. These materials often cannot be used again except as recycling. Virtual manufacturing, however, can keep these materials from being used, because a 3D model only requires some electricity to power the computer.
In many ways virtual manufacturing can help save a plant money, and not just in material costs. Tooling expenses are not as great, because they can be set easily with the program and there is often less shifting because of fewer prototypes being made. Production is often faster and with fewer errors because of the precision of the virtual program. These products can be made quicker, so they also can be sold quicker, which may give a virtual manufacturing plant an advantage over other plants.