Using virtual reality for training is not a new idea. Pilots, truck drivers, welders and many other professions have incorporated virtual reality in an effort to reduce training costs and increase safety. It was along this basis in 2004 that we developed the idea for the first version of our VirtualPaint system. It was a basic idea - combine simulation software with advanced hardware technologies to make spray application training more effective at providing performance feedback, efficient at utilizing training time, eliminate training material waste and reduce safety concerns!
The Iowa Waste Reduction Center has an in-depth history in the painting and coatings industry. At first glance spray application of coatings may seem simple, but the fundamental challenge of achieving film thickness consistency at higher transfer efficiencies is anything but simple. When you consider the costs related to finish quality re-work and material waste resulting from coating thickness inconsistencies, oversprayed paint and hazardous waste disposal; the return on investment for effectively training spray applicators makes perfect sense.
Painter Training Begins
The IWRC has been training spray applicators since the early 1990’s. Our trainers have first-hand knowledge of the cost savings that can be achieved by improving spray application finish quality and transfer efficiency as a result of training. Traditionally, spray application training efforts fall short of the anticipated returns because the most beneficial training methods are not effectively delivered because of time, money and resources. Many of the negative pitfalls of training could be eliminated by incorporating virtual reality technology.
Officially released in 2006, VirtualPaint became the first virtual reality system for spray application training, developed by painter training experts. VirtualPaint was created for one purpose, to provide an interactive solution to the challenge of spray technician training. VirtualPaint uses computer simulation to simplify the training process and provide spray technicians with precise non-biased feedback of their performance through various forms of visual and statistical feedback that cannot be easily replicated in a spray booth.
Since its release the IWRC has worked with Fortune 500 companies, coatings manufacturers, educational institutes, the Department of Defense and more. Aside from simply selling the VirtualPaint system, IWRC also began providing VirtualPaint training across the country. The success of VirtualPaint allowed IWRC to continue research and development efforts.
Businesses and organizations alike recognized the benefits of VirtualPaint. Customized training could be conducted in a classroom without shutting down an entire paint line. Painters can learn the proper application techniques and immediately apply what they've learned to production. The IWRC knew it could be better though.
In 2012, the IWRC began working with The Ames Laboratory and Praxik, LLC to redesign the VirtualPaint software. The objective was to improve software capabilities so that VirtualPaint could be a more effective and comprehensive training system. Based on six years of customer feedback, three years of applied research and more than a year of software development, the newest version of the software, VP8, was released in 2013. As a result of the significant improvements to the software, VirtualPaint won the Excellence in Technology Transfer award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium Mid-Continent Region!
In 2013, the growing exposure of VirtualPaint in Europe resulted in new partnerships with Canescens BV and Praxik, LLC to develop localization software capabilities and explore distribution opportunities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. At the first exhibition in Paris, VirtualPaint was honored by receiving the EQUIP AUTO International Grands Prix for Automotive Innovation.
With the help of clients, industry partners and our development teams, the IWRC plans to continue improving capabilities of our VirtualPaint system to meet the training needs of the future.
VirtualPaint® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Waste Reduction Center, which is a division of the University of Northern Iowa. The VirtualPaint® system and the underlying technology were developed by the Iowa Waste Reduction Center in conjunction with Southwest Research Institute. The VirtualPaint® system is covered by U.S. Patent Nos. 7,839,416, 7,839,417 and 7,817,162, which are owned by the University of Northern Iowa Research Foundation and licensed exclusively to the Iowa Waste Reduction Center. The patents cover innovations in the mathematical paint model and features of the VirtualPaint® system including the "assessment mode". The University of Northern Iowa Research Foundation has not licensed any of the patented features, including the innovative paint model or the assessment mode, to any other entity other than the Iowa Waste Reduction Center. The making, using, selling or offering to sell systems embodying these patented features, unless that system is purchased from the Iowa Waste Reduction Center, constitutes patent infringement.