Wednesday, April 24, 2013

News: AMRC and IBM unveil MRO prototype


Researchers at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham are working with global technology and consulting corporation, IBM to use augmented reality and robotics to support engineers.

The mobile maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) prototype is a robotic sidekick designed to help manufacturers and companies supplying and maintaining high-value machinery in sectors such as aerospace, oil and gas and shipping. It will help field engineers accurately locate equipment, provide them with critical information and receive real-time visual support from supervising experts based remotely.

Out on site, engineers can use smart phones with augmented reality technology to overlay points of interest over a plan of the site, which can include the location of other engineers, first aid stations and health and safety apparatus. Scanning QR codes can help locate and identify an asset and receive maintenance instructions.

If assistance is needed, a remote expert back in the office is able to view the on-site engineer's workspace and support them with real-time video and audio links using a camera and a small projector mounted at the end of a remotely controlled robotic arm. The remote expert is also able to project a pointer and valuable information such as free-hand sketches, assembly instructions and CAD images directly onto the workspace or a nearby wall.

The new system provides the supervisor with complete visual independence and a more stable video image; on-site engineers are able to work with greater freedom or, in the case of those with specialist glasses, freed from the tiring need to re-focus their eyes.

Richard Lanyon-Hogg, technical director for the industrial sector at IBM, said: "The MRO prototype brings together two innovative IBM technologies, developed in our European research labs in Hursley and Haifa, into a single solution for our clients. It offers manufacturers the opportunity to lower their costs, provide just-in-time knowledge transfer and reduce the personal risk to engineers working in difficult environments."

Dr Rab Scott, head of the Virtual Reality and Modelling Group at the AMRC, added: "IBM's MRO prototype is an exciting addition to the innovative toolset used by the AMRC's researchers and engineers. We hope to demonstrate its usefulness and versatility in a number of situations within the manufacturing arena."

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, the AMRC is a successful collaboration between academia and industry and is responsible for identifying, researching and resolving advanced manufacturing problems in order to help businesses become more competitive through the application of new techniques, technologies and processes.

A fully working IBM MRO system has been installed at the AMRC's Diamond Jubilee Knowledge Transfer Centre.

IBM website
AMRC website

Images: IBM / AMRC


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