Suppose youre planning a factory, wouldnt it be easier to configure with software that lets you roam production floors before construction begins? Thats the goal of virtual-factory software being developed by University at Buffalo engineers, Rochester, N.Y. Our software can provide manufacturers with tools that enable them to model before they build; to simulate before they produce; and to anticipate and solve production problems before they occur -- all of which has the potential to lead to significant cost savings, says T. (Kesh) Kesavadas, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Virtual Reality Laboratory. UB VR-Fact! allows individuals to immerse themselves in or fly through an environment and virtually rearrange machines, equipment, and other objects just by pointing and dragging, he adds. Using probability-distribution equations, the researchers have simulated an entire week of plant operation in just half an hour. With supercomputers in UBs Center for Computational Research, even greater complexity can be simulated effectively, they claim. Research is continuing on software that will simulate the operations of individual machines, making it possible to touch the machines controls as well as simulate the assembly of individual parts.