Magazine article Industrial Management

Visualization and Its Importance in Manufacturing Simulation

Magazine article Industrial Management

Visualization and Its Importance in Manufacturing Simulation

Article excerpt

Now we have already discussed imagination in the treatise On the Soul and we concluded there

that thought is impossible without an image. Ar Ate

Logicians may reason about abstraction. But the Great mass of men must have images.

Thomas Babington Macaulay

As Aristotle and Thomas Macaulay noted years ago, visualization is the foundation for human understanding. Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have seen images in natural wonders. Objects like stars, rock formations, and clouds could be explained more easily with visualization and image processing. Early languages were pictorial, eventually evolving into written. Humans think and create in a graphic world.

This article examines the innate human ability to process graphic information and describes how graphics and animation add value in manufacturing simulation. Finally, trends and the future of visualization are discussed.

The field of scientific visualization has experienced extraordinary growth over the past ten years. More scientists and engineers are gaining a better understanding of their world with computer-generated images. Visualization provides "high bandwidth" communication, which allows more information to be transferred in a shorter period of time. Visualization enables scientists to share complex ideas and be more creative in providing solutions. Scientific visualization has become more common because of advances in computer technology. Volumes of data that would have taken years to review can now be communicated graphically in seconds.

The concept of visualization has been applied in manufacturing simulation systems. When graphics are used in simulation, more people can gain better understanding of the systems being modeled. If the manufacturing system being modeled does not yet exist, animation is among the best methods of validating system design. There is, however, still some resistance to the use of graphics in the simulation process. Some see graphics and animation as frivolous, non-value added activity in the modeling process. Those who are skeptical about the importance of graphics see them only as pretty pictures, and they discount their importance as an avenue for communication.

Graphic information processing

Of all our brain functions, our vision system has the highest capacity for processing information. Cognitive psychologists divide human information processing into preconscious and conscious forms. Preconscious information is involuntary, like breathing. The human system for processing graphic information is preconscious, which allows us to use more of our conscious problem-solving abilities. In the human population, the ability to think visually is different in every person. Computer graphics help those who would otherwise not be able to visualize complex concepts.

Human minds also have the ability to use images to explain complex phenomena. Scientists Michael Faraday and James Maxwell both thought in terms of physica pictures when describing their theories of electricity and magnetism. Maxwell, a physicist, relied more on diagrams and geometrical notions than on symbols. Other prominent scientific theories that use underlying images are Darwin's tree of life, Freud's submerged iceberg for the unconscious, and Dalton's atom as a tiny solar system. These images carry with them powerful meaning that would be difficult to describe by any other means.

The mind can also identify patterns in data when it is presented graphically. Imagine a normal distribution. Now try to visualize a normal distribution from a list of numbers. Few of us have the skills to see the underlying trends in numeric data. Graphics allow us to focus on the interpretation of results.

Our minds execute millions of visualization operations every day as we perform ordinary tasks without much conscious intervention. Since these visual tasks are often automatic, the importance of visual communication is lost or forgotten. …

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