It takes several years to build an industrial plant. So once it’s finished, operators are understandably keen to go on stream as quickly as possible. When the technical staff are already suitably trained by that point, it means that the plant can start production rapidly, efficiently and without any hitches. In large complexes, 100 or more team members may need training, and some of them might have zero experience. Multiple training sessions, each lasting a couple of weeks, are required to bring everyone up to speed.
Accurate in every detail - 3D plants
That is why Linde engineers came up with the idea of creating a three-dimensional digital twin of plants under construction. This Virtual Training simulator provides realistic training even during the build phase. “Everything that we needed was already under our noses – stored on our computers,” explains Linde project manager Nanna Thiele. “We have digital engineering plans for every plant we built in recent years – and we can turn that data into knowledge.” So Thiele and project co-manager Mathias Mostertz teamed up with companies specialised in the creation of digital fantasy worlds for computer games.
Converting CAD plans into virtual worlds
Virtual reality (VR), or the computer-generated simulation of a real environment, converts data that is only intelligible to experts into a realistic three-dimensional world. To immerse themselves in this world, users only need VR headsets with a 3D display, two controllers and a powerful computer – all of which can be easily purchased from any large electronics retailer. The technology is so intuitive that even a layperson can find their way around a virtual plant.
Virtual Training Simulator
Virtual training debuts with Russian customers
As a prototype, the development team virtualised a subcomplex of one of the world’s largest gas processing plants which Linde Engineering is currently planning in the Amur region of the Russian Far East. The plant is scheduled to go on stream in stages from 2021 onwards. “The aim is to develop an interactive training platform that will allow the future operating personnel to become familiar with the massive complex long before it has even been built,” says Benjamin Krebs, business owner of the project and engineer in charge of process engineering and commissioning. He has conducted many training sessions himself and he welcomes the tool as an invaluable enhancement to traditional classroom training.
Virtual training among future services
The big advantage of VR is that it drills operators on safety procedures, typical interventions and routine processes in a safe environment where trainees don’t have to worry about consequences. One or more users can immerse themselves in this virtual world from any place, at any time. All of the required hardware – including laptop, VR headsets and controllers – can be carried around in a specially adapted hard-shell case. Linde Engineering plans to make the Virtual training a standard component of its service offering.