Augmented Reality app helps Volvo unlock post-pandemic productivity

  • ABB RobotStudio® Augmented Reality Viewer app allows employees to see what a robotic cell design will look like in situ on the production floor, using their smartphone 
  • At Volvo’s plant in Curitaba, Brazil, the solution is helping to reduce engineering time and costs by using simulations to guide cell design, while also improving collaboration across the company 

Automotive giant Volvo is finding that robotic cell design can be as easy as picking up the phone thanks to ABB’s RobotStudio® Augmented Reality viewer, which has been added to ABB’s powerful PC-based RobotStudio offline programming software. The smartphone app uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology to overlay model designs created in RobotStudio into a real-life production environment, allowing users to better understand the size and scale of a robot or robot cell, and how it will fit in or around existing structures. 

At Volvo’s factory in Curitiba in the south-east of Brazil, engineering teams have been using the app to speed up the design process and improve collaboration between team members. Using the superimposed animation to virtualize and simulate the robot’s operation has helped personnel to identify issues such as cables and components that may require additional testing and design alterations, which can be easily made within the PC-based RobotStudio software. For areas with very little space to implement new equipment, such as in Volvo’s paintshop at the facility, the app has helped engineers to optimize the design of the cell based on the space available and other factors such as safety considerations. 

Robotic cell designs can be highly complex, and it is not always obvious from schematics and drawings how equipment will look once physically installed. The RobotStudio AR viewer app allows users to visualize the installation as it would look in real life, enabling users to get a more complete idea of the size and scale of a proposed design, and see an animated version of the cell in action.  

A timeline feature makes it possible to check the cycle time and go quickly to a certain point in the process, opening new possibilities to enhance performance or pinpoint potential issues. The app can scale and rotate models to assist with cell design and find the best configuration for installation of the physical cell. 

At the plant in Curitaba, staff have found that the app offers huge benefits for collaboration, as well as making it easier to explain projects to others who are less experienced with robotics, as Leonardo Amaral, Local Technology Specialist for Robotics, Volvo Trucks, explains: “We only started using the app relatively recently, but in that time we’ve already seen the benefit in being able to avoid errors and optimize designs. Because the app is smartphone-based it means that anyone can access simulations anywhere and at any time – this makes it easier to help managers understand what we are trying to achieve, and get the go-ahead on projects.” 

The app is an important stepping stone in the development of future robotic solutions at the factory, continues Leonardo: “As recently as a couple of years ago we were not using software at all, and so new robotic installations would take a long time to design and test, as we would have to make so many changes to the line manually. When you can simulate all this instead, and do so on a smartphone that everyone has in their pocket, this makes it so much easier to experiment with different solutions in a fraction of the time. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced industry to establish new, more efficient ways of collaborating from separate locations, both with other Volvo plants and also equipment suppliers, and the AR app is a great way of making this possible.  

“Already we’ve been able to exchange ideas across the world in a way that we couldn’t before. We might create a RobotStudio file here in Brazil and share it with our colleagues in other territories – within 10 minutes we can have the solution installed on the other side of the world. As countries increasingly make the move from producing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EV), technologies like the RobotStudio app could help to drive production time and costs down significantly.” 

The RobotStudio AR Viewer app is available free of charge on the Apple Store and Google Play Store and viewable on any compatible smart device (including iPhone 6 and iPad Pro onwards, and Android 7.0 onwards with ARCore support). 

For more information about RobotStudio and to watch the new AR Viewer in action, visit ABB RobotStudio page

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