In recent years there have been moves in industrial engineering towards greater automation through intelligent systems and this has resulted in replacing human expertise. In many cases the potential of intelligent systems has yet to be realised. This paper presents and discusses an alternative technological approach, which uses immersive virtual reality (VR) to support engineering design tasks. The approach focuses on the human engineer and acknowledges the importance of human input to the design process. The development of a metaphor based VR system is reported along with initial field trials, which compare VR with conventional CAD systems. The results show advantages of using VR over CAD and these are discussed along with strengths, weaknesses and future work.

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