Digital mock-up in the development of production systems.

Digital mock-up in the development of production systems

Initial situation and project objective

The automotive supplier HELLA and Fraunhofer IEM cooperate on exploring how digital technologies will shape future working methods and processes. To do this, the partners are investigating the use of augmented reality in the planning of assembly workstations and systems. Not only could the mixed mock-up enable significant gains in the future efficiency of workplace planning, it might also revolutionize collaboration between developer teams.

Solution and customer benefits

HELLA operates locations around the world where it produces lighting technology and electronic components for the automotive industry. In the development of production systems for headlamps and tail lights, the planning team currently uses standard methods of cardboard engineering. Physical mock-ups, i.e. prototypes made of cardboard, are used as creative tools to appraise the design of a future production system.

Individual components like work surfaces and drawers can be easily modelled in cardboard, long before actual production of the headlamps begins. The situation is quite different for the headlamp components themselves: Often there are insufficient numbers in stock, or only earlier, legacy versions are available. The initial aim of the project is to use augmented reality to project digital images of tools and future headlamp components onto the cardboard prototypes. This method transforms the real-world prototypes into mixed mock-ups. Members of the planning team wear data glasses, in which they are shown digital information. These mixed mock-ups can be used to play through planning scenarios that are always combined with the latest design versions.

The potential inherent to earlier, more efficient and realistic planning of production systems is self-evident: Virtual and therefore direct availability of any number of the latest components and tools, as well as access to a library of standard components, makes the assembly and testing of production systems significantly faster and more reliable. It also brings remarkable improvements to collaboration within the project team, as well as communication between production and development. For instance, engineers can be included directly in the process of building the mock-up by asking them to deliver the latest engineering data. In addition, planning scenarios can be infinitely recycled or modified. Augmented reality technology brings endless creative opportunities to collaboration within the team.