Already an exponent of Virtual Reality technology, Renault Trucks is now evaluating the dynamic potential of Mixed Reality to deliver a new, faster and more reliable quality control process at its Lyon engine manufacturing site, with phase one testing to start in January 2018.

Working with Immersion, the European leader in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, a multi-disciplinary team of 20 employees, set up in a similar fashion to a start-up and benefiting from an internal incubator, has designed a prototype using Mixed Reality to control engine quality.

Unlike Augmented Reality, which displays information on top of reality, both laid flat and on screens, Mixed Reality can add virtual objects into a real environment in the form of holograms, with which users can interact.

"In practice, quality control operators will wear Microsoft HoloLens smartglasses in which all the digitalised engine parts will be integrated,” explained Bertrand Félix, the Renault Trucks engineer behind this project.  "Via the glasses and Mixed Reality interface, operators will see decision-making instructions that will guide them through the most complex control operations. At the moment, operators working on control points are still using paper instructions."

Merging the virtual with reality

Each of the engine parts, which are digitalised and superimposed over the actual engine, can be viewed separately, guiding operators towards specific parts and validating quality process stages one-by-one.

Keeping their hands free, operators can also be sent additional decision-making information, such as plans and verification and assembly instructions. Last but not least, this technology contains numerous embedded sensors enabling users to move around the engine.

"In addition to the expertise we have been acquiring in Virtual Reality since 1994, our added value lies in our multi-disciplinary team that really understands needs and uses in order to offer our customers a global experience", explained Jean-Baptiste de la Rivière, R&D and Innovation Director at Immersion. "With Renault Trucks, we have designed and developed a tool that is perfectly suited to the requirements of the factory, which can be integrated into the manufacturer's industrial processes."

The result meets expectations – a high-performance solution that meets the requirements of Renault Trucks factories, both in terms of quality and agility.

A practical step towards 4.0 industry

Renault Trucks sees considerable advantages in this technology, as use of mixed reality both reduces and improves quality control operations. It also reduces the cognitive load of operators and accelerates their training. Other applications may be envisaged in a second stage, such as assistance with assembly or repair.

Renault Trucks has set itself the challenge of developing a paper-free, digitalised manufacturing process. It is envisaged that the Mixed Reality prototype will be rolled out around 2019-2020.