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Research into working in factories for the future

Technology changes the way in which we live and work. Discover how we use robots and Virtual Reality to support operators in the factory of the future. There is no doubt: the new way of working will be digital.

Technology in support of people

Working side by side with robots

Automation has made life for operators a lot easier. Robots are taking over an increasing number of heavy and repetitive tasks. But when programming a robot takes more time than the actual execution of the task, isn’t automation then missing its goal? Collaborative robots, which work side by side with man, learn from an operator who demonstrates tasks. We also examine how robots can be programmed in a more intuitive way, for instance through speech recognition. This will facilitate their use for variable tasks, as is among others required for the production of small series, and will ensure the increased use of collaborative robots in industrial environments.

However, all these technological changes have both a physical and cognitive impact on our ageing workforce. That’s why we perform research into ways to let robots and men work together so that work remains workable. We can, for instance, use collaborative robots for tasks that would otherwise require too much physical strain. After a thorough analysis of the workplace, we optimise the division of tasks between operator and collaborative robot. To quantify the cognitive load, we use high-tech measuring devices. 

Virtual reality as game changer

What if you can teach operators to assemble a machine before the parts are actually available so that you can assess whether or not this assembly would be right. Virtual and Augmented Reality make this possible. This digital technology has clearly outgrown the world of games and games consoles.

Basic principle: a virtual production environment. Not only will this allow to immediately ‘see’ the effect of design changes, you will also be able to measure the feasibility or efficiency of the operational set-up.  This will result in shorter design times because no physical prototypes will have to be built. Another benefit are shorter production times. Because, when operators are already familiar with a design and the assembly sequence has been optimised, the actual process will go considerably faster.

In our collaborative VR-Room, companies can visualise and inspect 3D-models of, for instance, their own machines or vehicles, based on CAD-drawings.

Operator Support 4.0 lab, the extended version of our mobile MAKE LAB

To enable operators of companies to experience the technological developments that have been realised in the Operator Support 4.0 lab, we make use of the MAKE LAB, our mobile, fully connected research infrastructure. It is a living lab in which together with companies we work towards solutions for their technological challenges. Through co-creation, we identify opportunities for growth and innovation by deploying robots or Virtual Reality. First, we perform a feasibility study in the Operator Support 4.0 lab. We then implement this solution in the MAKE LAB and bring the technology literally to the companies, where operators can experience the possibilities with their own eyes.

You can always contact us for more information on technologies and ways to support operators.



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