Developing Consumer and Pro Audio Products with Virtual Methods to Improve Quality
June 8, 2020 │ This article is only available in English:
Methods of acoustical virtual product development have been used for many years, especially in the automotive industry. They are continuous developing rapidly. For companies in consumer and professional audio, the question arises as to whether and how they can integrate virtual technologies into their product development and production processes in a way to master product performance, that is profitable, i.e. cost-reducing and sales-promoting.
In the development phase of complex products, errors and shortcomings cannot be ruled out despite experience and routine. This makes it even more important to identify and eliminate sources of error in the early stages of design. For this reason, many industries have been relying on simulations and virtual product development for quite some time to control the development steps and thus systematically monitor product quality from the start. This enables developers, designers and engineers to evaluate the results of their work and, if necessary, to adjust them at an early stage. This saves time and especially costs for model and prototype design.
Virtual models reduce development time and optimize quality at the same time
The earlier virtual processes are used in the product development process, the greater the benefits. At the beginning, when the product is defined, the simple formula is “best product at a given price”, referred to as “best-in-class” or other terms. The art of engineering is finding the best balance between often contradictory requirements; functional, technical and commercial. A sweet spot can be found by exploring the design space, which requires building, testing and evaluating many models, however, the number of real prototypes is limited by time and costs.
In the past, adverse acoustic influences had to be adjusted or eliminated by acoustic experts manually, using physical prototypes, while today these effects are quickly recognized and optimized in the virtual space. With a digital model, it is possible to explore the full design-space and become certain where the solution is positioned, providing a solid basis for a product roadmap.
Changes and variant comparisons are possible almost at the push of a button. With the appropriate VR tool and the auralization process, products can even be made audible before the first prototype exists. This shortens the decision-making process considerably, as all contributors are equally well informed.
Depending on the phase of the development cycle, there are different approaches to the business case. The most common are:
Evaluation in pre-development
At a very early stage of development (concept phase), ideas can be transferred into virtual reality and new solutions can be explored. Even extremes, like oddly shaped cabinets, unconventional driver or port positions can be evaluated both technically and, after auralization, in listening tests. One important factor is the industrial design with its claim to communicate the product functionality to the user. With the application of acoustical virtual technologies, the results are clear and lead to well-founded decisions, resulting in superior concepts and design proposals.
Evaluation of the acoustic concept – feasibility studies
Once the concept is designed, it must be evaluated for feasibility. Until now, this has been done in the pre-development phase using physical prototypes. However, these first prototypes are still very imprecise. The analysis of the prototypes hardly gives any information about the expected sound quality. The evaluation based on a virtual model provides faster results, the concept is audible and can be optimized directly in the virtual domain.
Evaluation of the acoustic concept in detail engineering
In the beginning of detail design work for series development, it is still challenging to manufacture physical protypes due to the high dynamics in progress of work. Virtual models are needed to quickly answer questions about material decisions, parts alternatives, assembly process etc. Going right into the furthest corners of the cabinet, experts can analyze measuring points in the virtual room, which are not accessible in the real product, like a load unbalance on the driver. Effects can be analyzed whose cause could not be evaluated up to now. Completely new ways of development are possible. Various materials, changes in shape or a changed directional characteristic can be evaluated effortlessly in a short time without any prototype. For realistic results, the analyses are continuously refined as production is approached. At least in the early phase, yet another physical prototype can be skipped.
In our fast-moving times with ever shorter model and product life cycles, we believe that acoustical virtual product development plays a key role in future product development of consumer and pro audio products. The advantages are obvious: Better products and a shorter time-to-market represent a clear competitive advantage.
Mvoid – the Virtual Product Development Experts for Automotive, Consumer and Professional Audio
Mvoid is a pioneer and expert in virtual acoustics with the focus on simulation all hardware of the audio chain. The company guides its customers in Virtual Product Development by utilizing advanced Multiphysics simulations. All aspects of the audio system are modeled, culminating in real-time auralizations where the full system is listened to in validating design decisions.
The Mvoid methodology provides a development environment based purely on computer-generated models and Mvoid’s VRtool. Mvoid uses proprietary modules that integrate with industry standard software packages to realize and implement multidisciplinary simulations. For virtual tuning and auralization Mvoid uses the specially developed Mvoid VRtool where acoustic results can be auditioned over headphones.
Picture Source: Mvoid Technologies GmbH