Project Name: SMART ASSEMBLY (SmAs) – Augmented Reality Worker Assistance Systems

Project Volume: 750.000 €

Project Duration: April, 2019 until September, 2022

Project Partners: R. STAHL Aktiengesellschaft, DELTEC Automotive GmbH & Co. KG. We are also in dialogue with other partners. If you are interested in a cooperation or would like further information, please contact us.

This research project is funded by the Carl-Zeiss-Foundation and supervised by EAH Jena.

The area of manual assembly often represents a necessary production step for manufacturing companies, which is characterized by high time and cost factors. Due to the variety of product variants required, the demands placed on the manual assembly process are increasing. However, with fluctuating production figures, employees must be able to apply a high degree of flexibility to the individual work steps and workstations. Working at conventional manual workstations without aids therefore requires extensive training phases, which are time-consuming and costly. To support employees, assistance systems such as Pick-to-Light, video-based or interactive work instructions are currently being tested in the field.

Comprehensive new approaches are offered by the integration of AR/MR technology. With the available technical tools of AR such as smart glasses, headsets or AR installations, the real environment can be equipped with additional virtual objects and information. In addition, a query with feedback of information or data could also be possible. The integration of digitalization into the assembly activity could lead to a holistic optimization of manual assembly and represents the research goal of this project.

This goal is to be achieved by the investigation of several interrelated factors. The focus of the consideration is the possible assistance of the employees by AR/MR technologies in the assembly activity, illustration of the assembly task by the AR/MR and analysis of the assembly processes regarding occurring difficulties incl. automated evaluation by the AR/MR technology. On the one hand, constructive design guidelines are to be derived from the analysis, which enable the use of AR/MR, and on the other hand, occupational psychological aspects are to be evaluated, in order to be able to derive indications for target-oriented motivation. These research aspects will be investigated by series of experiments at three differently equipped manual workstations where a product is manually assembled. These three manual workstations represent the different technical levels of worker assistance: conventional workplace, state-of-the-art workplace and AR/MR workplace.

The results of this project will be used to optimize training phases, apprenticeships, quality control and planning. For example, the use of AR/MR technologies could drastically shorten training phases. An increase in quality is also possible, as errors in the assembly process can be detected and corrected immediately. Thus, this approach represents a holistic further development of manual assembly.

The complexity of the assembly task increases with the increasing number of parts to be connected and the existing variants. Solutions such as the creation of paper-based work instructions are no longer effective at this point, because they can no longer reliably map the required complexity. In addition, today's assembly is characterized by fluctuating production figures, which requires greater flexibility on the part of the employees to be deployed.

The aim of the SMART ASSEMBLY research project is to determine the possible applications and effects of Augmented Reality (AR)/ Mixed Reality (MR) technologies in the field of industrial assembly. The focus is on manufacturing companies - especially small and medium-sized enterprises - with a high proportion of manual assembly activities. The project pursues an approach to holistic optimization with the help of AR-based assistance systems, considering the entire product life cycle.

The research project investigates two areas that influence each other: Improvements for workers and design.

The identification of identical assembly tasks at workplaces with different technological levels forms the basis for a well-founded analysis of the influence of assistance systems in assembly. For this reason, we pursue an approach with practical investigations at three differently equipped manual workstations:

  • Conventional workplace
  • Workstation according to the state of the art
  • Workplace with AR/MR technology

Work packages in the analysis phase:

  • Analysis of the product and its assembly processes
  • Assembly and testing of the assembly stations
  • Transformation of assembly processes into the digital world

Work packages in the investigation phase:

  • Consideration of occupational psychological aspects
  • Feasibility studies at the assembly workplace
  • Empirical studies on the application of AR/MR

Work packages in the evaluation phase:

  • Analysis of test data
  • Derivation of constructive design guidelines
  • Preparation of additional data for the AR/MR environment
  • Examination of the transferability of the results

Assembly Technology

The Assembly Technology working group examines current topics in manual and automatic assembly. The focus is on the support of the employees, i.e. the support of the employee in the fulfilment of his tasks. Tasks in the project are:

  • Set-up of the assembly stations with initial tests
  • Feasibility studies at the AR assembly workstation
  • Empirical studies on the application of AR/MR
  • Analysis of the experimental data
  • Transferability of results

Design Engineering 

The Design Engineering working group examines the extent to which existing design guidelines need to be revised and new information created in order to design products for the use of AR in assembly effectively and efficiently. Among other things, they have to be examined for their possible influences in case of component defects as well as for process capability and ergonomics. Tasks in the project are:

  • Consideration of existing design guidelines for an assembly-oriented design - especially regarding the influences on component faults, process capability & ergonomics.
  • Adaptation of the current design guidelines - effective and efficient design of products for the use of AR in assembly.
  • Recognition of design difficulties in the assembly process
  • Consideration of occupational psychological aspects

Information Technology

Existing technologies and procedures in the areas of augmented/virtual reality, object recognition, position determination, voice control, data analysis, etc. refer to the application area of assembly in the project in order to determine the practical suitability and the potential benefit from the user's point of view. Tasks in the project are:

  • Transformation of the assembly process into the digital world
  • Adjustment and optimization of the assembly process
  • Preparation of additional data for the AR/MR environment


Assembly Technology

All of our three assembly workplaces have the identical equipment:

  • Electrically height-adjustable assembly tables with a working width of 150 cm
  • Electric screwdriver with torque/-angle control for torques up to 6 Nm
  • Automatic screw dispenser
  • Material boxes in different sizes
  • Holding fixture for workpieces (individually produced for the product)

Special equipment available for single workstations:

  • Retro-reflective sensor and pick-by-light for all material boxes
  • PLC with touch panel
  • Panel PC
  • Barcode Scanner
  • NFC modules
  • Coating thickness gauge (optional)

Link to 360-degree video of the assembly lab:

Information Technology

  • Google Glass
  • HoloLens 1
  • HoloLens 2
  • HTC Vive Pro
  • Realwear HMT1

  • Unity
  • Unreal
  • Blender
  • Visual Studio
  • SolidWorks