Volkswagen develops in-house AR tool to aid engineers in Chattanooga

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The software behind the new AR tool was developed in-house in just over six weeks by the Volkswagen virtual engineering lab in California

Quick read

➨ The factory is preparing to ramp up production of the new Atlas Cross Sport
➨ Using AR goggles, engineers are deploying the new tool for design and quality control
➨ It has the potential to be rolled out across Volkswagen’s North American operations

The story

Automotive manufacturer Volkswagen is using AR at its factory in Chattanooga in the US state of Tennessee to design production lines and help spot potential issues.

The factory, although currently shut down until 29 March due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, is preparing to ramp up production of the new Atlas Cross Sport, as well as begin work on assembling the next generation of Volkswagen electric vehicles planned to launch in 2022.

Using AR goggles, engineers are deploying the new tool for design and quality control. The software behind it was developed in-house in just over six weeks by the Volkswagen virtual engineering lab in California.

The lab developed the tool in response to requests and feedback from technicians in Tennessee. The system helps designers see not just individual parts, but how existing and future equipment could interact in a real environment, according to Volkswagen.

The automotive manufacturer’s engineers already use industry-standard virtual planning and software design for vehicles and factory machinery, but the AR factory goggles give them the ability to see how the pieces will fit together in the real world.

Steffan Nunn, digital factory specialist at Volkswagen Chattanooga, explained: “This helps us to make decisions quicker, and spot potential issues sooner. As we integrate new models into the existing factory, we need to make sure our virtual design data matches the reality in the plant.”

Commenting on the decision to develop the AR tool in-house, Frantisek Zapletal, who leads the virtual engineering lab for Volkswagen Group of America, said the automotive manufacturer’s advanced technologies group, which took two weeks to develop the initial concept, had more room to manoeuvre and improve quickly while working with sensitive data.

Zapletal said: “If we had done this with external partners, it wouldn’t have been as flexible or as fast. It’s really a communications platform, and people can use it to share ideas quickly. Once you see an idea in AR, you really believe it.”

Zapletal added that the tool could be used for office layouts and vehicle accessories design, with the potential to be rolled out across Volkswagen’s North American operations and beyond.

Going forward in Chattanooga, AR will be deployed to help improve ergonomics and maintenance.

Nunn said: “With so many people generating input into these processes, communication is really important. Anything we can do to help speed up decision making means we can get more efficient and focus on assembling high-quality vehicles for our customers.”

Image: Volkswagen
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