Chicago — One man's curious mind has turned into a cutting-edge business opportunity, according to plastics packaging tooling and design firm R&D/Leverage.
The Lee's Summit, Mo.-based company is out with a virtual reality approach that allows clients to perform real-time prototyping.
And it's all because employee Derek Scherer wanted to learn.
Scherer, an automation engineer, bought himself a virtual reality system — you know, with the futuristic-looking headset — so he could start learning on his own time about the technology.
"I think it was more of a hobby to start out," Scherer said at Pack Expo in Chicago. "I was working for about two months on my own."
But his casual approach soon turned serious as Scherer became more proficient in the virtual world. He started understanding the potential to use the technology at his day job.
Fast forward to now, and R&D/Leverage is rolling out its LEVR virtual reality prototyping system to clients.
"We're calling it real-time prototyping because that's really where the value proposition is as opposed to going through rapid prototyping, which is great compared to what used to be available," Scherer explained.
Rapid prototyping uses computers and 3D printing to dramatically cut down on the time it takes to create a physical sample when compared with traditional prototyping techniques.
But LEVR, a play on the company's name and "virtual reality," allows customers to create an almost infinite amount of possibilities almost instantaneously. And once a choice is made, customers can use rapid prototyping to create a physical sample.
"It's developed by us entirely by us. The software is not available anywhere else on the market. We created it as a tool for our design work. And also, because it's so broad, what you can do with this kind of technology, we're looking into other applications internally and what we can do with our customers," Scherer said.
Customers donning the headset and grabbing controls in each hand can interact with prototypes in virtual reality, changing colors, heights, widths and even handle designs, for example.