Tank Relocation Simulation [Case Study]

Relocating an industrial-size helium tank at a science laboratory presented clearance issues at a particular tunnel passage. VIATechnik created a simulation of the transit sequence using laser scanning and high-precision modeling, verifying the available clearance and allowing the owner to proceed with the relocation with confidence.


Field measurements indicated there was only a few inches of available clearance. With such a low tolerance for error, the simulation needed highly accurate digital twins of the truck, tank, and tunnel infrastructure to accurately predict the available clearance. 


VIATechnik utilized laser scanning, point cloud modeling, and product specifications to create highly accurate models at real-world scale. Custom physics were also created for the truck model to simulate movement over a fluctuating road surface.


Virtual simulation offered the owner and general contractor confidence of the tank relocation’s feasibility despite the low tolerance for error. Laser scanning also proved significantly more efficient for verifying site conditions, saving time and money and allowing for rapid recreation of the site in 3D modeling software.

The Case Study


A prominent national science laboratory was preparing for a new expansion project to one of their existing facilities when they encountered a critical logistics issue. They needed to relocate a large helium storage tank to the site, but the tank would need to travel through a tunnel under the building to reach its desired location. Initial field measurements and calculations showed that there were only a few inches of clearance available. Even a small discrepancy in their calculation could jeopardize the relocation, so the owner turned to VIATechnik to perform a precise analysis and prove whether or not the relocation would succeed. 

VIATechnik’s strategy was to recreate the site and equipment at exact real-world scale and simulate the transit using Unreal Engine—a real-time game engine platform. Digital twins—high-precision replicas modeled in 3D software—are becoming increasingly common to help owners draw insights and make decisions about their facilities. For the helium tank relocation, the tolerance was simply too small to rely on rough measurements or old design models. VIATechnik approached the problem by first taking laser scans of the tunnel area to generate a thorough point cloud, mapping all of the precise details and anomalies, including fluctuations in the road surface and tunnel ceiling. For the truck transport and helium tank, VIATechnik used product cutsheets and shop drawings to reconstruct these assets virtually. Custom physics code was also developed for the truck to simulate the suspension and how it would roll across the road surface, even allowing users to drive and steer the truck itself.

When the site and equipment were fully replicated digitally, VIATechnik synthesized everything into Unreal Engine to conduct the simulation. The real-time game development platform offered numerous advantages—most importantly, it allowed the team to accurately simulate the truck’s movement as it drove through the tunnel with the tank on its flatbed trailer, picking up all of the anomalies in the road surface that might have caused a clearance failure. It also allowed the team to seamlessly switch between two different options for the tank’s orientation on the flatbed—giving the owner a choice between maximizing clearance or convenience. Unreal Engine’s camera system also allowed the team to review critical points along the tunnel near the entrance and exit and document the worst-case conditions from multiple angles.

Running the simulation confirmed that sufficient clearance was available with only a few inches of tolerance at the tunnel’s entrance and exit. To share the results with the laboratory’s team, VIATechnik rendered the camera sequences directly from Unreal Engine. The simulation was then formatted to allow streaming over the internet. Users connecting to the web portal could drive the truck themselves and see the resulting clearance in real time. The laboratory subsequently proceeded with the tank relocation which culminated in a successful move. More than just validating the numbers, the comprehensive digital twin and real-time experience brought confidence to the team that all critical factors had been considered and that the tank relocation would be a success.

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