New technology significantly speeds up assembly work

Increased competitiveness in the Finnish assembly industry with augmented reality technology

VTT has developed new graphic solutions, which combine virtuality and reality, to support the assembly work tasks of the industry. Using augmented reality (AR) technology, it is possible to include virtual instructions, images or three-dimensional models in the view of the employee’s workstation, which the employee perceives by means of a computer, data glasses or a camera phone.  These contribute to more effective working and a reduction in errors.

The required information for effectively controlling a product’s assembly is largely produced during its design stage. However, the information is not transferred to the assembly work in a usable and illustrative format, but it is generally turned into inferior 2D-drawings and generally applicable text instructions. In addition, searching for information is difficult, if necessary.

By using augmented reality technology, assembly instructions can be made accurate and illustrative. A method has been developed in a VTT project to increase the effectiveness of data transmission, which enables assembly instructions to be created from the design data. In the future, the aim is to automatically produce AR-based instructions. 

The real and virtual world are merging

Augmented reality combines the virtual and real world. Thus it differs from virtual reality, where totally virtual worlds are created. Using augmented reality, virtual models can be observed in the real world in real-time, interactively and three-dimensionally and with considerably lighter equipment than the worlds of the virtual reality. 

In augmented reality, images, virtual models and instructions are added to real-time video images, which can be examined three-dimensionally in the real environment by means of a computer, data glasses or a camera phone. So-called markers, i.e. target marks, are frequently used to define the three-dimensional location of virtual targets. The location of the marker - above which or in proportion to which the virtual target is added - is identified from the video image.

Instructions in the right place at the right time

Augmented reality solutions can be applied, inter alia, to make work more effective. The idea to this is that a work instruction, for instance, a three-dimensional model, image or text can be placed precisely in an employee’s real environment, in the right place, right position and at the right time. In this way, the employee does not have to think, how a job should be performed, what the next work phase is, and drawings are not needed to support the work. 

Enables flexibility

Augmented reality solutions make continuously changing assembly work, in particular, more effective. The assembly of individual products and products to be tailor-made is slow, expensive and prone to errors. The automation of these kinds of products would be costly.

Work is speeded up and quality is improved

According to research, assembly work becomes 5–10 fold faster using augmented reality instructions. In addition, the quality of the work is improved, because employees learn to do the work precisely in the same way. As a result of the instructions, the learning phase of the work is also considerably shortened. Furthermore, the employee can easily move from one workstation to another. 

Companies’ processes hinder the introduction

The greatest obstacle in terms of introducing augmented reality is companies' design and manufacturing processes. Another obstacle is also the fact that  augmented reality instructions are still created manually. The aim is to use the CAD system for creating augmented reality instructions.

Augmented Assembly project

The Augmented Assembly project, in which methods for transferring data from CAD systems to augmented reality assembly instructions are being developed, is currently underway at VTT. In VTT’s project, the augmented reality technology is being applied to assembly work for individual and small series products, and the design and manufacturing process is being developed to support its use. Product design and instruction on assembly work can be better integrated using augmented reality. 

 


Additional information

VTT is an impartial expert organisation. Its objective is to develop new technologies, create new innovations and value added thus increasing customer's competencies. With its know how VTT produces research, development, testing and information services to public sector and companies as well as international organisations.