Dec 8, 2014
Rüsselsheim. The Wii game console is by no means just a kids’ toy. Adults enjoy it too. Millions of people around the world use the controller with the integrated motion sensors to play football or do their daily workout in front of the TV. Opel are now bringing the game consoles into the real world. In future, employees in production will prepare for new assembly assignments with the help of a Wii controller and a Microsoft Kinect camera. It is both quick and effective.
For example, which parts do I need to assemble an airbag? What do they look like, where do they go and in which order are they installed? Questions like these are answered during the virtual training. Thereby the assembly tools and the individual parts appear on a big screen. The user stands directly in front of the screen and can move in all directions. The camera follows the user and mirrors the movements on the display. The operator can select a part by pressing the Wii button and then move it to the designated position. The task is completed once all parts have been placed in the correct positions – just like in a computer game.
“We want a system that allows employees to virtually train in a familiar environment,” said Frank Arlt who is leading the VISTRA (Virtual Simulation and Training of Assembly and Service Processes in Digital Factories) research project at Opel. The automotive company initiated the EU-sponsored project three years ago and since then the next generation of virtual training has been researched and developed in Rüsselsheim. The VISTRA system will be put into practice from 2015.
Apart from Opel, six further research and industrial enterprises from Germany, Sweden, England and Denmark are involved in the EU research project. In total, ten Opel employees are working on the project along with 40 experts from external partners.
Virtual training solutions already exist but Arlt points out: “Their big problem is that they basically forget the user. Sitting our employees in front of a computer with a mouse and keyboard is not close enough to reality.”
Virtual training has many advantages. It is quicker, cheaper and more flexible than learning with reproduced hardware prototypes. An initial evaluation of VISTRA revealed that people trained on the virtual system make less mistakes (down 40 percent) than people trained solely on prototypes. The employees feel more secure when dealing with the individual parts and were quicker.
Furthermore, the personalized training ensures that each participant can learn the exact steps of procedure that he/she will utilize during the assembly of a vehicle. In addition, several people can use the system simultaneously and the equipment is light and flexible. It actually fits into a normal briefcase. Last but not least, it is fun.
The VISTRA team is currently looking into how efficient the program exactly is in the actual sequence and how it can be integrated in the existing process. Despite all of the advantages, the new virtual system will not replace working on real prototypes completely. Instead, it will complement the current system.
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