Evaluating the Effectiveness of Virtual Reality as an Education and Training Resource for Additive Manufacturing

Open Access
Ostrander, John
Graduate Program:
Engineering Design
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 31, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Nicholas Alexander Meisel, Thesis Advisor
  • Conrad S Tucker, Committee Member
  • Timothy W. Simpson, Committee Member
  • Sven G Bilen, Committee Member
  • Virtual Reality
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • VR
  • AM
  • DfAM
  • Design
  • Education
  • CAD
  • 3D Printing
Limited academic course offerings and high barriers to incorporate industrial Additive Manufacturing (AM) systems into education has led to an underserved demand for a highly skilled AM workforce. Virtual reality (VR) has been shown to be an effective assistive tool in the engineering design process, aiding designers in ergonomics studies, data visualization, and manufacturing simulation, yet there is little research exploring the advantages of VR to assist in AM education and training. In this research VR is used as a tool to teach introductory design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) concepts and to evaluate parts designed for AM. This thesis investigates the advantages that VR may have over traditional methods to teach DfAM concepts, evaluate parts for DfAM, and improve self-efficacy and other self-reported metrics. The first study presented in this thesis uses VR to teach introductory AM concepts and compares knowledge gained to that from a real-world physical scenario. The study assesses participants’ AM knowledge through pre-/post-AM lesson evaluation. DfAM conceptual knowledge gained and changes in self-efficacy are evaluated to make an argument for the effectiveness of VR as an AM learning tool. In this study it was found that both interactive and passive VR may indeed be used to effectively teach introductory concepts of AM; advantages to using interactive VR for improving AM self-efficacy were also discovered. The second study presented in this thesis uses VR as a DfAM design evaluation tool and compares it to a more traditional method of design evaluation: Computer Aided Design (CAD). These two environments: (1) Immersive virtual reality (VR) and (2) Non-Immersive virtual reality (CAD) are studied to uncover the advantages that each environment gives to designers when assessing parts for AM suitability. Participants familiar with DfAM are tasked with evaluating five designs of varying complexity using a DfAM Worksheet from the literature. Participant scores, evaluation times, and self-reported metrics are recorded and analyzed. Findings in this study identify VR as a design evaluation tool that enhances evaluation speed, which speaks to its efficiency and usability. However, VR in its current form may not be as accurate for evaluation when compared to CAD. When taken as a whole, the studies presented in this thesis demonstrate that VR can be used as an effective tool to teach introductory concepts of DfAM and evaluate parts designed using DfAM techniques, potentially expanding the reach of current DfAM design and education efforts.