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| South Wales Branch
Smart augmented inspection

Colin Macfarlane reports

As the present situation demands, the first engagement of the South Wales Branch’s 2020-2021 season was a webinar (virtual) meeting, titled: ‘Testia smart augmented inspection’, hosted by Matthew Day, in Bristol, and Christoph Stahmann, who was presenting from Bremen, Germany.

Matthew began with a brief outline of Testia, which he noted is an Airbus company and offers a wide range of NDT products and services. It was launched by Aerospatiale (future Airbus) in 1991 under the name ‘NDT Expert’ and later rebranded as Testia. The company is based in Bristol, UK, Bremen, Germany, and Spain, with the group head office in Toulouse, France. Matthew went on to note that there are also satellite offices in Canada, Mexico and Singapore. All of the sites are EN 4179 NDT training centres and offer equipment training, NDT Level 3 consultancy and inspection services. Matthew then introduced Christoph Stahmann.

Christoph started his presentation by describing the traditional inspection/installation workflow, with a production office issuing paper-based technical drawings and instructions to the shop floor. Installation and inspection results are recorded on the drawings or paper-based forms. Any non-compliances need to go to the technical office to be recorded and digitised and then new work orders are generated to satisfy the non-conformances. This goes to the production office to again issue paper-based work instructions/drawings. All of these steps allow the potential for delays, miscommunication and errors.

The presentation noted that Smart Mixed Reality has been deployed on Airbus final assembly facilities since 2012, with numerous improvements, and was now “operationally mature” and a “fully operational tool with nearly 900 users”.

Time reduction examples given included:
• Bracket inspection on A380 from three weeks to three days
• Non-compliance effort on A350 reduced by 50 hours
• Decreasing report effort.

Moving on, Christoph then gave an overview of the Smart Mixed Reality system, stating that the software can be used on a PC, tablet or HoloLens. Areas of use include installation, inspection, smart instruction, documentation and training and procedures.

An example of installation showed an area of fuselage with the hardware to be installed highlighted in yellow, within a virtual image on a tablet. After the build is completed, a check can be made of the virtual image versus the real live image to ensure all items are correctly in place. In another example, Smart Instruction was described as a step-by-step set of instructions that need to be completed and confirmed in turn. Again, the area of interest is highlighted in a virtual image. With regards to documentation, when the operator confirms on the system that the task has been completed, this automatically completes all of the necessary documentation. This includes a record of any non-conformances with positioning coordinates and any pictures or comments thought necessary by the operator. This information can be used to quickly generate any further work instructions on the system as required.

Christoph went on to cover the workflow preparation, using data integration from computer-aided design (CAD) along with an external source such as Excel, XML, etc. Next, the workflow needs to be defined in terms of context and installation/inspection so that the areas of interest are highlighted on the tablet or HoloLens. The work execution is carried out on the shop floor. The mechanic calibrates ‘real life’ with the virtual image to achieve the mixed reality. Then, areas or hardware of interest become clear.

General feedback reported included:
• Avoidance of duplicate work
• Reduction of manual effort/work
• Avoidance of uninstallation of wrong or unnecessary parts
• Feeding eTLB from inside the plane (direct documentation interface).

Several examples of rising efficiencies and significant cost savings for Airbus production were given as a result of mixed reality.

It was noted that the system is customisable to customer demands and so can be used in a wide range of applications. Wind energy and shipbuilding were examples of sectors in which the system had been successfully introduced. Christoph emphasised that once the initial training is completed, customers can work independently of Testia, thereby keeping all data in house.

In the second part of the presentation, Christoph gave a very impressive ‘live’ demonstration of the Mixed Reality System using a tablet and then a HoloLens 2.

The South Wales Branch would like to express its gratitude to Matthew Day for hosting the event and to Christoph Stahmann for the very interesting presentation and fascinating glimpse into the future of manufacturing, assembly and inspection.