Ask someone what they think of when they hear the term “augmented reality” and most people will say gaming and camera filter apps. Thanks to Pokémon GO and Snapchat, augmented reality has become mainstream during the last years. In the meantime, however, augmented reality has also found its way into other sectors besides entertainment. Indeed, AR is poised to play an important role in a number of industries, including healthcare and medicine, education and the automotive industry. It may be a technology still in its infancy, but it is here to stay. The possibilities of AR-tools for carmakers are endless. That’s why Porsche has decided to initiate innovations in the field of virtual reality.
As part of the STARTUP AUTOBAHN innovation platform, Porsche AG partnered up with VISCOPIC to develop a computer vision solution for assembly operations. VISCOPIC is a Munich-based startup that specializes in mixed reality. As experts in augmented reality and CAD-based vision systems, VISCOPIC architects and develops software solutions for industrial use create prototypes and evaluates real use cases.
Electric engines, rotors, and the Poka-Yoke principle
As you may know, Porsche has been working intensively on the electric drive of the future. The idea to implement a feasibility study comes from the field of manufacturing electric engines. In the assembly process of the rotor, the so-called laminated sheet metal stacks are placed on a shaft. For electromagnetic reasons, there are many different variants of these laminated sheet metal stacks, which have small geometric differences to one another. What makes this so difficult is that these differences cannot be detected by the human eye. So, how do we avoid errors in the manufacturing process?
In order to prevent incorrect installation, Porsche usually designs such components according to the Poka-Yoke principle. No, this is not a traditional exotic dance or fancy meal: The Poka-Yoke method is aimed at minimizing and eliminating the human error in manufacturing processes. Poka-Yoke makes it practically impossible to make mistakes — it forces actions to be carried out correctly, leaving no room for misunderstandings. A very common example are smartphone SIM cards: After all, there’s only one way to place the SIM card in the phone. It’s impossible to do it wrong.
Nevertheless, it is not possible to implement this securing in the special component design. To take up this principle, Porsche and VISCOPIC developed a digital Poka-Yoke for worker support.
The requirements: scalable solutions
Porsche’s key requirement for the developed solution was to implement a scalable solution that would adapt to the constantly changing requirements of the prototype environment of the pilot center. The development within the 100-day program of STARTUP AUTOBAHN was divided into three different phases:
1Feasibility study to detect the geometrical differences (less than 1 millimeter) with a high-resolution camera and the automatic extraction of the geometrical features from the CAD data.
2 Construction of a prototype assembly workstation with automated component recognition
3 Application-related realization of the final demonstrator and creation of the augmented reality workflow for digital worker support
The challenge of developing a computer vision solution for assembly operations — and the AR solution
As we have already mentioned, part of the challenge is that components and modules often change during assembly operations, resulting in a high degree of variance. Technicians are faced with the challenge that different parts are in front of them and that they don’t know the order in which these parts must be assembled. Furthermore, they must constantly adapt to changing boundary conditions.
Augmented reality allows us to assist in assembly operations and production processes. It can also be used to create interactive 3D animations to support and guide workers in their workstations during maintenance or assembly situations. This helps them to create better products and improves worker safety.
With augmented-reality goggles, workers can access instruction and troubleshooting manuals without taking their eyes and hands off the product, supporting them in their work activities. Moreover, engineers, technicians and service employees have no longer to be in the same room to collaborate on a project or to troubleshoot unexpected faults.
Bringing VISCOPIC AR into the Porsche production within 100 days
Together, we have created a demonstrator that offers the possibility of counteracting incorrect installations on the basis of a prototype. The VISCOPIC computer vision setup allows us to scan the sheet packages individually and to compare the scan images with the CAD originals. This information is then passed on to VISCOPIC’s augmented reality software, which then instructs the operator and reduces the error rate. This innovative approach serves as a universal tool that can be applied to many other component types. Based on the generic solution, this setup can be used for the recognition of a wide variety of components purely on the basis of CAD component data.
Within just one hundred days, a completely new technology based on a generic solution from VISCOPIC was integrated into the Porsche pilot center. We’ve seen tremendous results within this short period of time and are convinced that this tool offers enormous added value for the Porsche colleagues.