Intelligent Assembly Support System for Uniform Qualification of Personnel and Quality Control in Global Value Networks

25/06/2020

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Research Project AuQuA of the University of São Paulo and the WZL started

  Assembly object Copyright: WZL Hand recognition through the eyes of the prototype “Cornelia“

To increase the competitiveness of companies, local production sites are already being established globally in emerging markets. Meanwhile, cultural differences and country-specific variations in the qualification levels of the workforce make it difficult for multinational companies to guarantee consistently high quality levels in complex value networks. This challenge is now addressed by the international research project “Augmented Intelligence based Quality Assurance of Assembly Tasks in Global Value Networks” (AuQuA) which is being conducted by the Mechatronics Group of the University of São Paulo and the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University in cooperation with the Universidade de Brasília. The two-year research project is concerned with the question of how an intelligent assembly support system can enable both, uniform qualification of personnel and quality control in the ongoing assembly pro-cess databased and along global value networks.

“The overall goal of the project is to elevate the quality of a production to a consistently high level, independent of location and employee qualifications, and to continuously improve it using methods of Artificial Intelligence. Since humans will continue to play an essential role in manual assembly in the future, this is the focus of the project. With the help of methods of Artificial Intelligence, the analytical capabilities of humans will be enhanced to evaluate situations more comprehensively and to make better decisions. The cognitive-ergonomic interface modeling between humans and the analysis system is intended to provide the best possible support for the workforce,” explains Prof. Robert Schmitt, Director and Head of the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management at the WZL, who initiated the project with his interdisciplinary team led by Dr. phil. Ina Heine.

  Assembly object Copyright: WZL Projection-based Augmented Reality assembly support

Symbiosis of human and Artificial Intelligence

The international research consortium is developing a Context and Action Recognition System, which will allow the assembly support system to evaluate optical data and thereby recognize and analyze objects and operation sequences. “Our assembly support system will autonomously recognize the movement sequences of the worker as well as the dimensional characteristics of the assembly objects and learn independently how a high-quality assembly process should be designed. Based on the acquired knowledge, the system can instruct new workers and suggest corrective measures during the assembly process. The outstanding feature is that we transfer Artificial Intelligence into the physical world and enable it to interact with its environment. We enable a complementary and interwoven performance – a symbiosis of human and Artificial Intelligence,” describes Louis Huebser, employee in the Industrial Transformation Group of the WZL.

To communicate with workers, work instructions and notes are generated by the system and projected onto the work surface and the work pieces to be assembled. This form of Augmented Reality (AR) keeps workers free of so called wearables. The interface between human and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and thus the presentation of AR-based assembly support, is designed cognitive-ergonomically with the help of the User-Centered Design approach. “The system learns from the worker and vice versa. This way, it can be used throughout global value networks, taking cultural differences into account,” states Sascha Thamm, also employee in the Industrial Transformation Group of the WZL.

  Tools Copyright: WZL Prototype “Cornelia” of the assembly support system in the development phase

A project-accompanying committee, made up of implementation and application companies, consisting of ten German and six Brazilian companies supports the research consortium. The implementation companies provide relevant knowledge for the technical implementation of the system, whereas application companies provide important information from the production systems of potential users and validate the developed system in practice. “This ensures a fast incorporation of the results into operational practice and keeps university teaching up-to-date,” explains Dr. phil. Ina Heine, Head of the Organizational Development Research Department at the WZL.

The Mechatronics Group of the University of São Paulo stands for innovation in the fields of robotics, mechatronics, control, as well as Artificial Intelligence, and comprises five large research laboratories: mobile robotics, robot manipulation, robotic rehabilitation, instrumentation, and the advanced control laboratory. As the research area of the Mechatronics Group includes the development of intelligent sensors, control techniques, and the design of new robots and mechatronic systems, the focal points complement those of the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management at the WZL. “In this research project, the expertise of the research partners complement each other so that we can use synergies in the development of the assembly support system,” comments Prof. Marcelo Becker from the University of São Paulo.

The Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) funds the AuQuA research project via the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF). For further information, please visit the project page.