With This Tool Designers Can Evaluate Material Qualities in a Digital World

— March 14, 2017

At the Autodesk Automotive Innovation Forum in Munich, Germany, X-Rite Incorporated, a global color science and technology company, and its subsidiary Pantone LLC, announced the industry's first immersive Virtual Light Booth (VLB). The VLB allows designers, material suppliers and marketers to accurately and efficiently visualize and compare 3D digital material renderings side-by-side with physical samples in an environment that controls all parameters influencing the perception of appearance. Part of the company's Total Appearance Capture (TAC™) ecosystem, the VLB ensures a new level of consistency between digital prototypes and final physical products. This helps companies reduce approval cycles and accelerate time to market. 

As companies transition to digital manufacturing processes, there is a growing need for physically precise virtual designs that represent the true appearance of the final product. To date, CAD and rendering software solutions have been limited in their ability to visualize physical appearance characteristics such as texture, gloss, transparency and opacity. The TAC ecosystem and VLB make it possible to capture and verify the true appearance of a material in a digital environment.

"We have incorporated more than sixty years of color and appearance science into our state-of-the-art Virtual Light Booth to provide an immersive and interactive experience that allows users to accurately evaluate material appearance in both a physical and virtual world," says Dr. Francis Lamy, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, X-Rite. "For the first time, VLB allows product teams to compare digital and physical materials under the exact same perceptual conditions – from illumination to contextual to observational factors. With the VLB, design teams can easily vary these conditions to see changes in material performance. As a result, designers can make more informed material selections and reduce approval times and improve product quality."

Turnkey solution for comparing digital and physical material samples
The Virtual Light Booth combines the X-Rite's SpectraLight QC professional light booth technology with a high-resolution, color-calibrated LCD display and a real-time color management engine. A digital material rendering or product simulation is shown on the VLB's display next to the physical sample. This enables users to view both the virtual and physical samples under controlled daylight conditions in a standardized visual observation environment. VLB offers users the flexibility of viewing samples under diffuse or spot light sources.

Combining embedded motion tracking sensors, spectrophotometers and colorimeters along with the synchronization of real-time rendering technology, the VLB delivers a 3D virtual experience that mimics real-life by adjusting the virtual representation as a person's viewing angle changes. This is especially important when evaluating materials that use special-effect pigments, whose color and appearance change based on the viewing angle.

"We have taken the complex process of virtual evaluation and developed a turnkey solution that can be used across any design-to-production workflow. Customers do not need to worry about color calibration, lighting or viewing angles. We have incorporated all of this into the new VLB so that customers can quickly and accurately evaluate virtual and physical materials," says Lamy.

The TAC ecosystem
The VLB is part of the TAC ecosystem, an award-winning appearance solution that accurately and efficiently captures, communicates and visualizes complex physical materials, including special-effect pigments and synthetic fabrics. TAC brings product designs to life with digital material representations that have the same visual appearance characteristics as their physical counterparts. Using the TAC ecosystem, product designers, 3D artists, material specifiers and marketers can scan in physical material samples and create vendor-neutral Appearance Exchange Format (AxF™) files to digitally communicate and share consistent appearance-related data with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and state-of-the art rendering applications. This enables a new level of realism and efficiency in digital material capture and 3D design.


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