3D Modelling Western Australia 2009

Challenger TAFE - ACEPT


The Challenger TAFE - Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT) provides training to process operators. On-campus and distance education is provided from Certificate II to Advanced Diploma level for people working in, or aspiring to work in, the resource sector.
Students learning on campus have access to an operational separation plant. After completion of core theoretical components, teams of students run this plant to consolidate their theoretical knowledge, and develop practical skills required in the industry.
Demand for training is increasing, particularly from the Oil and Gas sector. ACEPT needs to develop additional educational tools and methods to allow the standard of training to be maintained. The main challenges are to provide appropriate resources to the distance students and to maximise the efficiency with which the plant is used, as this is the current limitation for the number of concurrent students.
ACEPT’s business partners on this project, ISA Technologies and 3D Millipede, had worked together previously to build a model of the human brain for use by St John of God Hospital Murdoch for use in their drug education program. ACEPT staff had seen this model and worked with 3D Millipede and ISA to design the resources.

What was done

Discussions with 3D millipede and ISA technologies led to development of an interactive 3D representation of a section of ACEPT’s plant, embedded in a PDF format with accompanying educational material such as photographs, text, audio and animation.
3D Millipede provided the 3D modelling and animation. The model was developed from a combination of original CAD drawings and, where these were unavailable, standard mechanical drawings. The primary difficulty during this phase was locating the ACEPT documentation and determining if any intellectual property issues existed with the original design firm.
While this was occurring, ACEPT produced the training material for inclusion, such as the text and photos. ISA Technologies combined these resources with the graphics into the PDF and developed the navigation controls. They also arranged the voice-over for the audio component.
This was then test run by the ACEPT lecturers to capture any flaws or omissions. Only minor rework was required such as text corrections and labelling errors.
This version was then made available on campus ACEPT students. Their feed back was recorded using written surveys and interviews to assess the overall usefulness of the tool, as well as improvements or additional features that could be added to future developments.

Benefits experienced by ACPET

The expected benefits such as the ability to view the internals of the equipment, and the additional understanding of the operation this provides, were realised. Most respondents also spoke highly of the animation of the operation.
While originally envisioned as a self-learning tool, it has been incorporated into classroom discussions by the lecturers as it is visually more appealing and accurate than either the general static drawings or those drawn by the lecturer on the whiteboards.
That it is specific to the ACEPT plant has been of notable benefit for those in the early stages of the public courses. They do not yet have the industrial experience to easily adapt a generalised line drawing to the processing plant they are practising on and this tool gave them the necessary information three dimensionally.
This additional understanding afforded the students made a noticeable difference in how efficiently they approached operating problems on this piece of equipment when they were completing their practical training.

Lessons learnt

The initial survey developed was very detailed and asked for feedback about vary specific components of the model. It was quickly found that the level of detail was unnecessary for determining the success of the project and detracted from the students’ attempts to use the tool for its original intent. On the basis of this the survey form was amended and the ability to give short answers rather than provide rankings was expanded. More detailed responses were gained from selected people by interview.
It was also found useful to give students a brief overview of the tool before they used it to ensure they were aware of all the features available. When this is rolled out to distance students, the same can be achieved be providing a short written instruction with the file.
For future work, this project gave ACEPT a good understanding of what could be included and what the technological limitations are. It also demonstrated conclusively that expanding the modelling and creating additional educational resources to cover the full ACEPT plant will be worthwhile.
The process taken prior to funding to ensure we were not duplicating readily available learning tools, highlighted the lack of good, technically accurate information pitched at the process operator level, specifically Certificated II-IV. The vast majority is aimed at university level students, and thus is not suitable as is for ACEPT’s demographic.
Expanding this style of learning tool that combines the technical information with links to the operating plant will help fill that gap.

The results

The key outcome of the project was to determine if this style of education resources would assist ACEPT in delivery quality education to an increasing number of students. Particular focus was on improving the resources available to distance students and reducing the time required on the on-campus processing plant.
That this type of resource can achieve this was shown not only through the students’ and lecturers’ enthusiasm for the tool, the feedback received through the survey sheets, but also from a noticeable improvement in understanding of the concepts associated with the tilted plate separator.
This project also enabled ACEPT to determine that further development of these resources will be economically justifiable.
This conclusion is strengthened by the additional opportunities for use identified once the lecturers’ saw the finished product. For example, trainees come to ACEPT in two week blocks over a few years. As it can be several months since they were on campus, time is lost reacquainting them with the plant. A full plant version of the tool, if developed, could be used by each student prior to their arrival on campus to minimise the refamiliarisation time.

The Framework connection

The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework ) funds and supports E-learning Innovations projects which aim to embed e-learning into the national training system by supporting and enabling innovation in training design and delivery, at the state and territory level.
The tilted plate separator file will be incorporated into the educational resources for the separation related units of competency in PMA08.


This is a Western Australia E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Challenger TAFE, ISA Technologies and 3D Millipede, with seed funding from the Framework.

Project output link

3D model of tilted plate separator
Challenger TAFEs 3D modelling uses 3D animation and modelling process equipment to assist ACEPT learners to understand the complex concepts and and chemical processes. This model is of a tilted plate separator which separates oil and water.

For more information on the Australian Flexible Learning Framework:
Phone: (07) 3307 4700
Email: enquiries@flexiblelearning.net.au
Website: flexiblelearning.net.au