Renault Trucks is evaluating the potential of mixed reality to enhance quality control processes at its Lyon engine manufacturing site in France, with phase one of testing now underway.
Working together with Immersion, a developer of virtual reality and augmented reality technology, a team of 20 employees, set up in a similar fashion to a start-up and benefiting from an internal incubator, has designed a prototype using mixed reality to control engine quality.
Unlike augmented reality, which displays information on top of reality, both laid flat and on screens, mixed reality can add virtual objects into a real environment in the form of holograms, with which users can interact.
“In practice, quality control operators will wear Microsoft HoloLens smartglasses in which all the digitalized engine parts will be integrated,” explained Bertrand Félix, the Renault Trucks engineer behind this project. “Via the glasses and mixed reality interface, operators will see decision-making instructions that will guide them through the most complex control operations. At the moment, operators working on control points are still using paper instructions.”
Each of the engine parts, which are digitalized and superimposed over the actual engine, can be viewed separately, guiding operators towards specific parts and validating quality process stages one-by-one.
Keeping their hands free, operators can also be sent additional decision-making information, such as plans and verification and assembly instructions. Last but not least, this technology contains numerous embedded sensors enabling users to move around the engine.
Jean-Baptiste de la Rivière, R&D and innovation director at Immersion, added, “With Renault Trucks, we have designed and developed a tool that is perfectly suited to the requirements of the factory, which can be integrated into the manufacturer’s industrial processes.”
The truck maker sees considerable advantages in this technology, as use of mixed reality both reduces and improves quality control operations. It also reduces the cognitive load of operators and accelerates their training. Other applications may be envisaged in a second stage, such as assistance with assembly or repair.
Renault Trucks has set itself the challenge of developing a 100% paper-free, digitalized manufacturing process and aims to roll out the mixed reality prototype by 2020.