The BMW group production focuses increasingly on virtual (VR) and augmented (AR) reality applications. VR images, or artificially created images, are ever more realistic and hard to distinguish from real pictures, explains a press release of the German automaker, while in AR applications, illustrations complement real images.
In production, these images are powerful tools in numerous use cases in training and qualification, planning of workstations at the assembly line, or quality control. Most important, no extensive IT expertise is required to use these applications efficiently.
Thanks to VR, planners in construction, plant engineering, logistics and assembly can now assess new production areas completely virtually together with production staff and test new processes in 3D. This type of planning is based on digitized factory data available in 3D.
For several years now, the BMW Group has been digitally capturing its actual plant structures with special 3D scanners and high-resolution cameras to an accuracy of just a few millimeters. This provides a three-dimensional image, or scatter plot, of production areas and does away with the complex, digital reconstruction of structures and manual on-site recording. When planning future workstations or entire assembly halls, the BMW Group’s business units now combine existing data with a virtual library.
Training and qualification
At its Production Academy, the BMW Group trains managers, production planners, process leaders and quality specialists on the principles of lean production. For about 18 months now, AR goggles have been used in training sessions for engine assembly units. Visualizations guide participants through all process steps and give specific information.
Participants can work at their own pace, determining the speed of the training via voice control. Previously a trainer had to work with one person at a time, while with the new system this number has increased to three. The engine assembly training can also be easily adapted to other screw joint processes with a quick and easy set up. In the course of 2019, this software will be made available to all interested staff.
Comparisons in operations
Checking a complex part weighing up to 25 tons, such as a press tool for the production of body parts, can take a lot of time, but speed is an issue. Staff at the Munich location of the BMW Group Toolmaking and Plant Engineering unit mount a standard tablet on a tripod.
The built-in camera of the tablet produces an image of the tool. Then, an AR application superimposes this image with the CAD construction data of the tool ordered and the staff can see whether all production specifications have been implemented. The tedious comparison between CAD data on the screen and the actual tool will soon be a thing of the past.
Cheking components of future vehicles
The BMW Group also applies target/actual comparisons at its Munich plant. Using an AR application, specialists use pre-series vehicles to check the maturity of construction concepts and the correct installation position of components in these vehicles.
Visualisation of relevant CAD data only takes a few seconds. Data from several parts can be combined as desired and superimposed on the camera image of the tablet PC. An algorithm calculates the best fit and highlights important design features.
The application developed jointly with the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research provides important information as to whether any adjustments (be it in vehicle design or manufacturing processes) are necessary before a new model go into series production.
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