ICI staff play with virtual chemistry set

Screening for design problems: ICI chemical engineers could practise working at the new Teesside plant before it was fully operational

A virtual reality (VR) model helped staff at ICI become familiar with their new Teesside chemicals plant a month before it opened. The plant makes Melinar, used in plastic bottles and packaging production.

The model plant (above) includes 2,000 tonnes of steelwork, 200km of cables, 21km of pipework and 1,300 items of equipment.

The model was created in four weeks by VR Solutions using data from design contractor, Fluor Daniel’s Intergraph Plant Design System.

Andy Connell, technical director of VR Solutions said: `Our model has allowed Fluor Daniel and ICI to rehearse routine checks, carry out constructability studies, ensure there is space for maintenance, check safety signage is visible and highlight areas of the plant where operators would be in danger of tripping or banging their heads. Valves can be turned, gauges rotated, hatches opened, vessels moved and pipe routes followed.’

Ian Hogg, mechanical engineer at Fluor Daniel, said: `Concurrent engineering principles are more readily applied, as errors can be spotted and changes made before it is too late.’

Stephen Weatherly of ICI said: `In the future, we will probably be employing VR to help train people. We will be able to test things out in a risk-free environment.

`You can do things in a virtual world that would be unthinkable in the real world,’ he said.