Image courtesy of SkyReal

SkyReal and Safran build next-gen collaborative creation environment with Unreal Engine

November 21, 2022
Engineering companies require immersive and effective training that is available worldwide. To meet this need, Paris-based solutions provider SkyReal develops and distributes VR-based aircraft mechanical engineering and maintenance training and design tools on a global scale with the help of Unreal Engine.

International high-tech engineering group Safran is one of the largest consumers of SkyReal’s technology. The megacorporation has nearly 80,000 employees working worldwide in aerospace propulsion and equipment.

By developing iterative, immersive training experiences in the virtual world, SkyReal is training employees faster and saving their customers money.

“It's very costly to train operators to learn how to build, assemble, and maintain an aircraft engine,” says Hugo Falgarone, CEO and Founder of SkyReal.

Years ago, companies like Safran took engines out of their product line or developed specialized “training engines” for their mechanical and maintenance teams to train on, explains Falgarone. This is because the trainees need to be able to manipulate, dismantle, and put the engines back together again.

“Getting this type of training to every company and airline in the world, and every person responsible to maintain these technical problems, is a huge challenge,” he adds.

SkyReal answered this challenge with innovation.

Using a VR headset and Unreal Engine, SkyReal develops immersive training solutions for complex aircraft equipment and systems that can be used by individuals or in a collaborative environment.
Image courtesy of SkyReal
“It’s been proven to be very effective in terms of learning, because with VR, trainees are learning with a real asset, they are emotionally engaged, and they are able to repeat it and repeat again,” Falgarone says. “They are truly learning by experience.”

And a major factor for developing the training in Unreal Engine, Falgarone relays, is its ability to scale up.

Customers like Safran need training content on a wide variety of subjects with reach to every part of the world. Safran, for example, has more than 78,000 employees in 274 locations in 27 countries.

“Producing large quantities of training content is not doable with efficiency if you’re spending time and money on external studios and companies to produce them one by one,” explains Falgarone. “We needed to find a solution to produce the content efficiently internally.”

SkyReal does this by creating an automatic pipeline to convert 3D models of the complex engineering structures and other customer data into assets to produce templates that can be used for multiple training scenarios.

“The immersive training courses we create with SkyReal use the existing 3D design data of Safran equipment and do not require additional modeling,” explains Gérard Coumes, Innovation Manager at the Safran Engineering Services site in Toulouse. “In addition, the existence of native models integrated into the tool makes it possible to structure the training project and make it easily editable, without having a special knowledge in computer development,” he adds.
Image courtesy of SkyReal
In addition, the company has cataloged the series and sequences of instructions required by maintenance personnel to solve both simple and elaborate challenges they face.

With this process, SkyReal is developing training content in hours rather than weeks or months, creating more than 200,000 immersive training content products so far.

In addition to its scalability, Falgarone says another advantage of the Unreal Engine platform is the ability to create realistic user-friendly content.

“We create immersive training from a user perspective,” he says. “Our designers develop the content so that our users don't need to know anything about Unreal Engine to focus on their training at hand. It’s click and learn.”
Image courtesy of SkyReal
Training isn’t the only challenge SkyReal is addressing for Safran and its other customers. Another major innovation SkyReal implements is its design suite.

In the areas of industrial design and manufacturing, SkyReal Suite is being used by development teams to create lifelike versions of their innovations in virtual reality before delivering them to the real world.

“Unreal Engine is a well-designed architecture to build things upon, with multiple capabilities,” says Falgarone. “Physical prototyping can be complex and expensive for large-scale projects, but engineers and other stakeholders want to be able to feel and touch their design.”

Using the SkyReal Suite, engineers can design, experiment, test, and collaborate on complex aerospace equipment and aircraft, which can easily have more than 100,000 design elements, Falgarone says.
Image courtesy of SkyReal
With Unreal Engine’s import tools, SkyReal easily converts data to assets inside the system for a seamless experience in the scaled design.

Since engineers are not necessarily gamers, a key benefit of SkyReal Suite is that it provides a click-and-play platform for the team.

"Realism is a must for engineers to get the hang of the tool; the stronger the realism, the faster the adoption,” explains Falgarone. “If your business is designing launchers, you don’t want to spend your time building or operating a complex VR system. You just want to see the latest modification of your design and iterate with your colleagues.”

Lumen and Nanite, the Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) technologies that respectively enable developers to generate dynamic lighting and automatically and massively scale assets, help SkyReal create the realism that engineers and developers expect, says Falgarone.

SkyReal Suite consists of three modules: one to prepare and import CAD data, another to store the data in “rooms” that users can explore, and a third to provide the VR interface and environment. The system is designed to present models at 1:1 scale.

An important feature of the software is that virtual design changes can be automatically propagated back to the CAD software, eliminating the need for a manual export/import cycle.

The idea was to create a software suite where the user could work autonomously, without needing to train someone on data management or virtual reality development.

“Collaboration is very important inside SkyReal, and Unreal supports this really well with things like Replication Graph,” says Falgarone.

Replication Graph enables multiple team members to simultaneously make and visualize changes in a design. This collaborative ability saves on iterations between designers and stakeholders and reduces design cycle time for SkyReal by up to 30 percent. It also produces cost savings on the backend since design assets created in SkyReal Suite can be used for advertising and marketing purposes.

SkyReal’s training and design services have vast uses for a range of industries. The design capability, cost savings, and efficiencies created by the company are helping their customers in aerospace, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding, offshore energy, and other sectors. With advances in Unreal Engine’s simulation capabilities, SkyReal intends to continue using the platform to expand its innovations for its customers.

“We need to be inventive to create the next generation of solutions,” Falgarone explains, “and Unreal Engine gives us what we need to be inventive.”

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