Predictive Maintenance with Augmented Reality Looking inside machines!

Kollaboratives Automatisierungssystem Roboplace

What do the inner workings of the machine look like? What happens in inaccessible areas of the machine? What instructions is the machine giving to the workpiece? Interesting questions, the answers to which can be visualized with the help of Augmented and Virtual reality.

“The further development of human-machine interfaces has always been one of the keys to the success of German engineering. Operators want not only user-friendly, but also understandable machines.” says Dr. Eric Maiser, Managing Director VDMA Productronic. Industry 4.0 applications that enhance, simplify and improve electronic manufacturing equipment, are many: “We are currently experiencing an evolution from permanently installed touch panel displays to operation by Tablets. This will make remote maintenance so much easier,” said Maiser. If the Tablet is held close to different parts of a machine, the program recognizes this and immediately displays the appropriate operating manual or work instructions – the user handbook can therefore remain in the closet. “In many areas Virtual and Augmented reality is already being applied – think for example of the gaming industry, virtual planning tools for the automotive industry and for architects or the „Star Atlas“ app for mobile phones,” said Maiser. “There is still a great deal of potential in electronics manufacturing and we want to demonstrate some possibilities during the Special Show.”

Imagesoft from Ersa
Machine operators, service engineers or maintenance teams can utilize AR to visually access complex and hidden machine parts and assemblies directly from the outside – without having to open the machine casing. How this can work in practice is shown by the soldering equipment manufacturer Ersa with its Imagesoft Virtual Reality software: Imagesoft uses a 3D image – similar to an x-ray image, to make it possible to represent complex machines and machine functions while in operation (or even without a machine) and to make this comprehensible. By increasing the image size of individual components, the corresponding part identification numbers automatically become visible. Required wearing and spare parts can automatically be searched for and also ordered directly from the Ersa Webshop by tapping the touch screen „Finger click“ function.

Additional information such as installation and maintenance instructions, process parameters and settings as well as many further details are provided directly to the operator. If Ersa Imagesoft is used online with connection to the machine then all machine parameters for the operational status are stored. The wearing parts library automatically determines which parts are to be checked or prepared for exchange at what time. By interrogating the bar codes of the replaced parts calculation of the next maintenance interval is carried out taking into account the machine utilization. Even when Ersa Imagesoft is in offline modus access to the stored data is still possible. Depending on the setting levels Ersa Imagesoft offers various application modes:

  • Trade Fairs / Events – interested visitors will be shown the functionality and complexity of the machine either without it actually being present or without the need to open existing equipment.
  • Sales – During consultation the structure, operation, and optional accessories of the machine can all be demonstrated in detail – lengthy presentations or drawings are not necessary.
  • Training – The operation and function of the machine can quickly be explained to the machine operator and plant manager.
  • Maintenance – Ersa Imagesoft provides all machine assembly and maintenance information online as well as performance statistics via the library and parts procurement via a web connection.

Seho: 3D Solder Tool change
At the Special Show Seho is also demonstrating its PowerSelective machine with a solution that supports the machine operator during maintenance: In all areas of the selective soldering process the precision of the components plays a crucial role, since very small structures are processed on the module. Before delivery of the soldering unit each solder nozzle tool is pre-positioned at the factory with high precision. If a product change now has to take place, the customer’s machine technician can change the solder nozzle tool himself. The tool change is carried out in several steps. These operations must be carried out with a great deal of care and precision in order to ensure the required accuracy for the selective soldering position and at the same time to avoid any damage to the nozzle tools. Using Augmented Reality step-by-step instruction for the machine technician can be visualized. In this way the operator is in no danger of misunderstanding written instructions and can implement to the required accuracy. “Based on our CAD data for PowerSelective it is even possible to create a 3D animation or to deposit corresponding video sequences for each step which is carried out during a soldering tool change,” said a Seho spokesman. “Moving pictures say more than 1000 words – nothing needs to be read in parallel in the User‘s Guide.”

Philips: AR tool for service and process monitoring
Based on its measurement system „High Speed Inspection Tool“ (HSI), Philips shows what can be achieved with the help of AR. On the Special Show stand the equipment will be shown “stand-alone”, but in a production line situation it can be rigid or flexible-coupled to other processes. An Augmented Reality tool is intended to help the Service Support, provide information about running processes/products, create networking with development, suppliers and customers as well as providing general plant information. An interface delivers information about various plant components to the operator, such as: Design drawings, parts information, prices for spare parts and can show the operator step-by-step how to correct errors in case of failure. The second interface aims to give the operator information about the just-made product. On a third interface the operator is able to communicate and interact. This is usually done via the Internet and can be achieved, for example, by email, chat, online video or audio conference. The third interface gives the operator general information about this type of installation and also acts as a service to product marketing.