As a part of CEVT’s sustainability efforts, we are one of the 16 partners in a collaborative project that unites industry, academia and institutes. The SUMMIT project aims to develop, showcase and collaborate on the potential for digitalization, such as Virtual Reality, VR, technology, to increase competitiveness in the field of production development. For CEVT, the aim is to develop production processes that is more ergonomically correct – and doing that while keeping traveling to a minimum.
At Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Xiaoxia Chen is doing her PhD at the division of production systems. Since the beginning of 2019, she has been looking into how to use VR technology in manufacturing to support sustainability within the SUMMIT project, which stands for sustainability, smart maintenance, and factory design testbed. The project began in 2017 and will end in April 2021. Xiaoxia used to work in the manufacturing industry and wants to use VR technology, not only to increase productivity, but also to increase it while at the same time contributing to sustainability.
The virtual plant improves production
She has been supporting her colleague Liang Gong to develop a virtual demo plant for CEVT to improve communication in designing the production process. The virtual plant helps the designers understand how the operators will work in the plant.
“One of the demos that has been tested so far was a station for spot-welding. The demo helps the designer to better understand how the operator is working while welding. How accessible is the station? Does he or she have to lean? What parts of the car is difficult to reach? The VR plant improves the production from the beginning, which means that the plant can be efficiently built from the start, with no need for difficult and costly adjustments afterwards,” said Xiaoxia Chen.
Less need for traveling
In January 2020, the VR plant was tested in multiuser mode. Two colleagues could enter the same virtual plant from two different locations.
“They could interact and talk to each other about certain parts or components of the production in virtual environment. So far, we have gotten positive feedback,” said Xiaoxia. As CEVT has design facilities in Gothenburg and production facilities in China, the VR plant would significantly reduce the need for travels. “VR helps bringing people together in the same environment and improving productivity and ergonomics without traveling.”
An important part of being an Innovation Centre
VR is a tremendously cost and resource efficient technology that significantly improves CEVT’s productivity. It improves ergonomics at workstations and results in smaller climate footprint through less traveling. But it is also an important exchange between academia and the business community. Through the SUMMIT project, cutting-edge research is put into practice.
We asked Anton Berce, Virtual Process Development Manager at CEVT who has been involved in the SUMMIT project from CEVT's side, about the benefits of this type of collaboration.
“To me an important part of being an Innovation Centre is to collaborate closely with Universities, challenge them to solve problems, and be eager to put the developments into practice. This benefits us through access to cutting edge research within the field and it benefits Chalmers, in this case, through the possibility to apply their technology on industrial cases, ensuring that the research is relevant.”
This collaboration has provided CEVT with the opportunity to think about how to incorporate VR into our path of being more sustainable. “Thanks to Chalmers and SUMMIT, we have learned a lot on how we want to use multi-site, multi-user VR in the product development processes,” said Anton Berce. “What activities are suitable to do in VR and how big is the potential savings in terms of sustainability and cost? In what phase of the development process is it most beneficial? What roles are needed in a VR-meeting?”
We believe all of these questions and more have become much clearer during this journey.
In 2019 the demonstrator was presented by Chalmers at the Hannover Fair where they got a special visit from German and Swedish Prime Ministers Angela Merkel and Stefan Löfven, Minister of Higher Education and Research Matilda Ernkrans, and HM Prince Carl Philip, who tried out spot welding at our Luqiao factory virtually.