Augmented reality has moved beyond the gaming industry to everyday life. Today, people can use AR to try on new clothes, visualize new home appliances in their existing floor plan and more.
AR is now making its way into the workforce, and Volkswagen plans to use it to help design new production lines for the Atlas Cross Sport at its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory.
Engineers are laying the groundwork for assembling the next generation of Volkswagen electric vehicles, planned for production in 2022. The company will use a new software tool developed in the Volkswagen Virtual Engineering Lab California to view how the new production lines should be laid out. Designers, using the new software and AR factory goggles, will be able to see how existing and future equipment could interact in the real environment.
“This helps us make decisions quicker, and spot potential issues sooner,” said Staffan Nunn, digital factory specialist at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “As we integrate new models into the existing factory, we need to make sure our virtual design data matches the reality in the plant.”
The original concept for the AR 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, said 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,” Zapletal said. “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.”
The system already has proven useful by discovering some pinch points between machinery and parts that were unknown. Zapletal said that in the future the tool could have uses for office layouts to vehicle accessories design.
Nunn said he would like to use the AR tool to help improve ergonomics and maintenance issues at the Chattanooga facility.
“With so many people generating input into these processes, communication is really important,” Nunn said. “Anything we can do to help speed up decisionmaking means we can get more efficient and focus on assembling high-quality vehicles for our customers.”
Volkswagen plans to expand the Chattanooga facility’s body shop by 564,000 square feet and it is building a 198,000-square-foot plant for the assembly of battery packs for its electric vehicles to come. This $800 million investment, announced in late 2019, will allow the Chattanooga plant to start producing EV vehicles in 2022.