25. Jan. 2024

With AR projection systems to the digital smart factory

Innovations in the automotive industry

How can manual reworking be optimized and seamlessly integrated into automated workflows? Augmented reality with dynamic laser and video projection offers an efficient solution and enables a 100% digital process chain. Many manufacturers are already using the technology in practice.

 

Even though digitalization in the automotive industry is well advanced, there are still many manual tasks for workers to complete. These include processes in body construction, in the paint shop and in final assembly. More complex joining processes such as MAG welding, clinching or gluing, the reworking of damaged features in the paint or the assembly of many variants on one assembly line create considerable complexity and therefore effort. The more manual work is involved, the more this slows down automated processes in the smart factory of the future. Costs increase due to time-consuming physical templates, reworking is complex and quality assurance is also more difficult for the worker if digital process data cannot be utilized directly or relevant updates cannot be implemented easily and completely. This is why automotive manufacturers are currently increasingly looking for ways to digitally support such manual activities so that they can be seamlessly integrated into automated workflows.

This is where dynamic laser and video projection comes into play. This augmented reality solution draws its data directly from the connected systems and displays complex 3D data on the part and assembly in an appealing, accurate and precise way. The projection helps the worker to recognize where and how to attach a component or carry out a work step. It also offers additional functions that go beyond pure visualization. With the help of tool tracking or interactive component tracking, every work step can be fully documented digitally. The data is transferred from manual process modules back into the digital model using 2D/3D image processing and processed further there. In this way, it is possible to map a fully digital process chain that also includes manual work steps.

Solving challenges in the process chain

Automotive manufacturers are increasing efficiency and quality by digitally optimizing manual activities through AR projection and seamlessly integrating them into the digital process chain. Augmented reality not only makes employees faster, it also means they make fewer mistakes. This reduction in workload also enables car manufacturers to better counter the shortage of skilled workers and staff turnover.

For example, the technology can assist with screw connections on a battery cell. The worker can see the projected positions for the screw connections directly on the battery cell and can therefore adhere to the correct sequence of work steps, which is extremely important here. The torque wrench is continuously tracked and localized. This enables companies to ensure that all processing steps have been completed 100%. During machining, data flows in both directions: from the production system to the worker and back to the digital production model.

Dynamic laser and video projection in practice

The major traditional German car manufacturers BMW and Audi are already impressively demonstrating how AR projection supports workers in practice.

BMW combines an AI-supported image recognition system with dynamic laser projection to ensure that the vehicle paintwork has no craters or dust inclusions. First, the paint surface is automatically analyzed with sensors and cameras for this purpose. The image recognition system localizes individual features. It then transmits this information to an AR solution in the finish booth. This then shows the worker where reworking is required and automatically recognizes which tool is currently being used and how long it has been in one position. This not only guarantees the complete processing of all features. In pilot operation, process parameters such as the contact pressure during polishing and grinding are also recorded. The car manufacturer can feed all this data back into the digital model and evaluate it.

Audi has been using dynamic laser projection for a number of years to increase the efficiency of marking out bolts in prototype construction by 75 percent. In the past, this work was laborious and required two workers for two days. Today, a dynamic laser projector marks the scribing points while the underbody is clamped on a rotary table. The employees can work comfortably while standing and no longer have to measure. With the AR system, the entire process takes one worker no more than one day.

Hardware, software and interfaces

An augmented reality projection system consists of at least one laser or video projector for industrial use, one or more cameras and intelligent software that controls the entire unit. Data sources and control technology can be integrated via interfaces. It is important that the AR solution supports all common CAD and 3D data formats. In a further expansion stage, the projection content can be generated automatically based on an individual parts list from the ERP system and the associated CAD data. It is also possible to read in individual data via a generic exchange interface for CSV data. Experts analyze the environment to find out which solution variant is the best for the respective local challenges.

Conclusion: Innovation in the automotive industry through augmented reality

AR technologies such as dynamic laser and video projection are the future of the automotive industry. They make it possible to seamlessly integrate manual activities into the digital process chain, make production lines more flexible and efficiently manage the increasing number of variants. Thanks to digital tool tracking or dynamic component tracking, data from the analog world can be transferred to the digital model and made available for further analysis. Integration into AI applications is also possible. The interaction of AI and augmented reality opens up many new possibilities for process optimization.

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