Workers who interact with virtual reality

​Virtual Reality, Real Quality

Technology creates virtual assembly line, contributing to the guarantee of excellence in the productive process

June 6, 2018 - Great innovations are born out of good ideas, but also out of a lot of experimentation. No technological invention in the history of humankind – whether it's Santos Dumont's successful 14-Bis or the development of the modern computer by Alan Turing – has escaped successive tests and, most of the time, many physical prototypes. But what if there was a way to test new products or processes before applying them in the real world?

The answer to this goes by the name of virtual reality. Yes, the one that is already intimately familiar with those who is a fan of games, accustomed to immersive glasses and motion sensors. In the very near future, technology will become popular in people's daily lives. According to a survey by the research firm ABI Research, the sale of devices with this resource, such as the glasses, is expected to grow at an annual rate of 84.5% by 2020, reaching the 50 million mark.

In addition to a sure bet for entertainment, technology is also present daily in the industry 4.0. "Among the innovations of this Industry 4.0 is the concept of Digital Twin, where you can create and test processes before they are physically installed", says Eric Baier, an expert in Virtual Simulation at FCA. Virtual reality has been explored by FCA since 2015 in simulations at the Plants of Betim, Goiana (in Brazil) and, more recently, Cordoba (Argentina).

Employees with virtual reality viewers

"We created interactive and immersive digital models to test the assembly steps for a car or an engine before the launch. A virtual assembly line, identical to the real one, is created, allowing us to validate the equipment and map movements, posture and visual field of the operators in the execution of the activities, as in the assembly of a headlight, for instance ", completes Baier. The IC.IDO, from the French supplier ESI, is one of the virtual reality softwares used by FCA teams. The pronunciation is "I see, I do". The suggestive name goes along with the idea of breaking physical barriers to go after solutions, taking advantage of the infinite potentialities of the digital environment.

At the Fiat Automotive Plant in Betim, the virtual reality room that houses the IC.IDO is located at the Manufacturing 2020 – a laboratory created to test new Industry 4.0 technologies and considered a cutting-edge structure in at FCA. In order to create interactive and immersive digital models, 3D glasses, joysticks, projection screen and two cameras, are the tools used. "We can use sensors in a variety of ways, such as 'picking up' parts in the virtual environment or even tracking physical components to validate processes," says Baier.

Installed in 2016, the virtual reality room of Manufacturing 2020 received around R$ 1 million in investments. This value was recovered in only eight months after its physical installation, because it avoided adjustments in the assembly line, which justifies the bet. "With virtual reality, we increase the quality of our products", says Baier. He argues that the advantages of the technology are significant, including the search for solutions for better ergonomics and comfort of the operators, because all of the movements and displacements done by the employee in the productive line are tested.

Among the advantages of the tool, we also highlight the collaborative simulation. In virtual reality rooms, professionals from different areas are gathered, integrating Product Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering to identify opportunities for improvement, either directly in the product or in the production process. Check out the video below on the use of virtual reality in Manufacturing 2020 in Betim:

Words: Bárbara Caldeira

Pictures: Marketing

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