Article from Angelos Bavelos, Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems and Automation

Instructions are a necessary part in industries where workers must be involved in assembly operations and reconfiguration actions.

New and inexperienced workers must first learn the sequence of actions that must be taken for each operation they take part in. This training takes time and resources and occupies a worker who could otherwise provide a useful support to the production. Not to mention that even experienced workers will need re-training when a new product enters the production or new reconfiguration actions are added to the execution.

The rigid form of training that currently takes place in industry undermines attempts at system reconfigurability and costs resources that companies could use better in other areas.

Why resorting to Digital Instructions?

Digital Instructions were created to counteract the rigid form of training that takes place in industry today. Those instructions are provided as real-time guidelines to the operators while they are performing their actions.

Those instructions consist of visual aids such as:

  • 3D digital representations of parts that must be assembled to form a product, and the way they have to be placed in the assembly.
  • Written text notifications describing the current action the operators must take.

Those digital instructions are delivered to the operator by wearable devices such as Augmented Reality glasses or tablets, or even projectors. This way, even an inexperienced or untrained worker can complete their operations, since they are shown each action they must undertake in real-time.

Figure 1. 3D Part Visualisation

In DIMOFAC, the Digital Instructions are used for assembly operations, as well as reconfiguration instructions when an error in execution needs to be solved by the operator’s immediate intervention. Several other capabilities will be developed for DIMOFAC using the same developments used for Digital Instructions.

For DIMOFAC, the device that will be used is the HoloLens 2 Augmented Reality glasses. Together with the visualisation part, a digital GUI (Graphical User Interface) is also developed to:

  • Provide the task description to the operator.
  • Give them the ability to move from action to action and inform the system that they do so.
  • Provide them with information about other parts of the industrial execution, such as the status of the other resources (robots, machines, etc.).
Figure 2. GUI-Task description
Figure 3. GUI-Visualisation level choice, fixed or animated

The Industrial Benefits of Digital Instructions

The benefits of Digital Instructions for industry are several:

  • Enabling inexperienced workers to easily learn new operations while providing useful results.
  • Reducing the cost in money and time for companies to train new workers.
  • Reducing the cost in money and time for companies to re-train their workers for new products.
  • Enabling the easy reconfiguration of lines.
  • Enabling easy and real-time reconfiguration of modules in case of errors.
  • Providing several other capabilities, such as malfunction and safety alerts.
  • Enabling the communication of the operator with the greater digital architecture of the industrial system.