As the Volkswagen Chattanooga factory ramps up production of the new Atlas Cross Sport, and lays groundwork for assembling the next generation of Volkswagen electric vehicles planned to begin in 2022, engineers are using augmented reality (AR) goggles to design production lines and help spot potential issues.
Different colors indicate the virtual position of new machinery along the Chattanooga production line.
The software tool was developed over just six weeks by the Volkswagen Virtual Engineering Lab California, based on requests and feedback from technicians in Tennessee. The system helps designers see not just individual parts, but how existing and future equipment could interact in a real environment.
While virtual planning and software design for vehicles and factory machinery has been a standard for years, the AR factory goggles gives engineers the ability to see how the pieces will fit together in the real world.
This helps us to make decisions quicker, and spot potential issues sooner. As we integrate new models into the existing factory, we need to make sure our virtual design data matches the reality in the plant.—Steffan Nunn, digital factory specialist at Volkswagen Chattanooga
The original concept for the system was sketched out in two weeks by Volkswagen’s Advanced Technologies group. By building the system in-house, Volkswagen had more room to maneuver and improve quickly while working with sensitive data, says Frantisek Zapletal, who leads the Virtual Engineering Lab for Volkswagen Group of America.
If we had done this with external partners, it wouldn’t have been as flexible or as fast. It’s really a communications platform, and people can use it to share ideas quickly. Once you see an idea in AR, you really believe it.—Frantisek Zapletal
Some early examples have shown that the system was able to identify pinch points between machinery and parts that weren’t previously visible. Zapletal says the tool could have uses from office layouts to vehicle accessories design, across Volkswagen’s North American Region or beyond.
Nunn says the next step in Chattanooga will be using the augmented reality tools to help improve ergonomics and maintenance.