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Smart Industry 1/2018

Smart Industry 1/2018 - The IoT Business Magazine - powered by Avnet Silica


Smart Communications Ar and VR AR and VR in Manufacturing Being There Virtual reality is not exactly new – VR goggles have been around since the ’90s – but now virtual reality is poised to arrive on the shop floor, along with augmented reality, both of which promise to revolutionize how things are made. ■ By Rainer Claassen In 1985 Mercedes-Benz introduced the world’s first virtual driving simulator in Berlin. A whole car could be placed on a moving platform and projectors turned the surrounding walls into a computer-generated landscape. With this device, the research and development (R&D) department was able to analyze a driver’s behavior in difficult or dangerous situations, without the risk of anyone getting hurt. Back then, this called for a seven-figure investment, but today, 30 years later, kids are exploring virtual environments, wearing simple VR sets that cost less than their smartphones. Entertainment has been one of the driving forces behind the development of the technology, but it's very likely to bring big changes in the world of industry. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are similar in many ways but distinct in both their underlying technologies and the way they are used. A VR computer generates a 3D image of a desired setting which can then be experienced via a screen, a smartphone display, or VR goggles – a headset containing monitor screens that provides a truly immersive, “real-life” Early days 1985: the virtual driving simulator at Daimler-Benz cost a small fortune experience. The headsets are usually equipped with gyro sensors that precisely catch the user's every motion, allowing the displayed image to adapt to the wearer’s movement. This creates the illusion of actually “being there.” More sophisticated headsets have two dedicated displays mounted inside, one for each eye. The unit is attached to a workstation that provides two highresolution video images displayed at a rate of 90 frames per second. These systems – like Oculus Rift by a spin-off from Facebook, or HTC’s Vive – also come with handheld controllers to allow interaction and surround-sound headphones to make the illusion even more realistic. Augmented reality, on the other hand, doesn’t cut users off from the world around them. Instead, by superimposing visuals and text over a camera image of a real scene, additional information is supplied which is intended to enrich the viewer’s perception of reality. Smartphones are one way of doing this. When the phone’s camera is pointed at something, the AR app recognizes the image and displays relevant bits of information or superimposed images into the display. Dedicated devices like Microsoft's HoloLens are more sophisticated and allow more thorough integration. It looks like a normal pair of spectacles. Objects or textual elements are displayed in the viewing field of the user – for example a calendar from a computer could be displayed and would look like it was hanging on an empty wall. By tracking the user’s 46

movements, the virtual overlays always seem to stay tethered to the correct place. In combination with handheld controllers, interactions with virtual parts of the scene are possible. Though this technology is just beginning to spread, the outlook is fantastic, with estimates predicting spending on AR technology will hit €60bn by the year 2020. A learning process R&D is the typical use case for both technologies but AR and VR are being adopted increasingly in production environments. Ford Motor Company uses touchscreen devices to train its assembly line workers when new processes are introduced. A model of a work space on the assembly line is displayed on the screen. In the first step, the actions the worker has to do are demonstrated. As the learning process advances, the demo becomes more sophisticated in four steps. In the last one, the user has to choose all the tools correctly and use them in the right way. This system allows workers to learn new skills without disrupting work at the assembly line – and without the need to withdraw an experienced worker. VR can also be useful before production even begins. It takes architects to fully understand blueprint plans of structures, and it takes engineers to read details of a construction plan. With VR technology it is now possible to take the data from the two components and put them together to build a 3D model of a finished construction site before the first brick has been laid. Now that it no longer takes expert training to understand and judge these models, the CEO of a corporation can wander through the virtual building and get a vivid impression of the current status of the work just as clearly as a worker who lives with the construction every day. Mistakes in planning that would not have been apparent before the building was completed can now become glaringly obvious much earlier. To make this possible, it's necessary to “translate” construction data from different sources into formats suitable for visualization – a task that is not always easy but, as the demand is growing, solutions are developing. Engineering software developer and consultancy Salt & Pepper, located in Osnabrück, Germany, specializes in data transfer and visualization. CAD and 3D models can be transformed through its Forestage tool for virtual reality displays on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Google Cardboard. This can be done in seconds and the software is more or less intuitive, say Timo Seggelmann and Fabian Scharmann of Salt & Pepper. Clients include companies like Claas, a producer of farm machinery, and carmaker Daimler. When using tools like Vive users are not limited to just watching the virtual surroundings – they can also interact with them. Forestage is able to import metadata from construction plans – so moveable parts can actually be “picked up” in the virtual world with a handheld controller as the user moves within the virtual surroundings to view things from different angles. Augmented workplace On the shop floor, scenarios for augmented reality are somewhat different. Service companies like Munichbased Reflekt focus mostly on themes such as service and maintenance operations and training. Similar to the earlier examples, Reflekt’s tools can also be used with construction data. One of the typical use cases for AR lies in maintenance where technicians can be guided through inspection procedures, and benefit from features like screenshots, displays of relevant measurements and values, as well as automated creation of inspection reports. Recurring repair procedures can be simplified and the frequency of errors reduced drastically when an AR guide is used instead of traditional printed descriptions. Similar to the example from Ford, training the workforce can also be made a lot more efficient with AR. Italian mixed reality company Inglobe Technologies has developed a postinstallation checking solution for the Huawei SUN2000-25KTL inverter – a piece of equipment employed in large industrial solar power applications. The right choice Workers at Ford can learn without disrupting the assembly line Spending on AR technology is predicted to hit $60bn by the year 2020 VR pioneers Timo Seggelmann and Fabian Scharmann of Salt & Pepper convert CAD data into virtual reality with the help of their Forestage tool Technicians can follow step-by-step instructions with augmented reality graphic elements and animations to perform assembly and wiring operations, quickly and easily locating the access points on the equipment and performing technical assignments. During the process, the technician is aided in choosing the most suitable tools for executing individual tasks. AR technology has other benefits. In the production facilities of Bergolin, a medium-sized paint manufacturer in Northern Germany, the HoloLens has become an important part of the production work. Production staff are required to wear heavy chemicalresistant gloves and had to remove them before entering feedback into the company’s terminals, which are located in specific places. With the introduction of HoloLens, the facility is now equipped with virtual mobile terminals and 3D touchpoints, which can be virtually displayed anywhere in the room and can even move along with the user. Simple hand gestures allow the recording of all job data in real time, so the entered information is available immediately – and fewer errors occur when entering the data. Not only is the cost of providing 47