Due to the expected increase in complexity in production, demographic change and the decreasing product life cycles, industrial companies have to face many challenges.
The use of computer-aided assistance systems can address these and provide individual support to employees in production environments by successively guiding them through the entire work process. On the one hand, this enables cognitive relief for employees while enhancing both their technical and personal competences. On the other hand, from the point of view of production-oriented companies, the use of such technologies offers great potential for optimization with regard to coping with increasing product and quality requirements and the development of innovative business models.
The XTEND software platform developed at Fraunhofer IOSB-INA combines the advantages of various interaction modalities to support a wide range of industrial tasks.
The use cases range from the guidance of untrained workers over the support of employees in complex assembly processes to the support of people with mental and physical disabilities in order to open up new perspectives in inclusive work.
XTEND augments the user’s physical environment by providing process-related information in the immediate vicinity of the workspace. It offers users the opportunity to perceive important information using data glasses, mobile devices or in-situ projections without distracting them from the primary work task. The focus here is an adaptive user interface that expands opportunities for disabled workers and puts their competence an the centre of a versatile production environment.
Advantages of the technology
XTEND is designed as a modular concept and therefore offers a high degree of flexibility. Different interaction devices such as wearables, tablets, smartphones, AR data glasses or eye trackers can be used standalone or simultaneously, depending on the context of use.
XTEND is developed, tested and optimized by using iterative methods of rapid prototyping approach. User requirements are considered in all stages of the development process to ensure an efficient and error-free operation as well as a sufficient acceptance of the technology.
To facilitate the introduction of new products and production steps into the workflow, new instructions can be
created without additional programing effort. Existing configurations of workstations (e.g. the arrangement of material boxes) can also be adapted quickly and flexibly to new work situations using Auto-ID procedures such as RFID. In addition, the utilization of drag & drop to create and manipulate tracking areas as well as the intuitive adaptation of projections facilitate the installation and configuration of workstations.
Compatible interface design
XTEND currently supports common industry 4.0 standards such as Automation Markup Language (AutomationML), OPC United Architecture (OPC UA), Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) or Representational State Transfer (REST). On this basis, a seamless data flow can be created and existing synergies can be used to realize a broad usability of the system. The manufacturer-independent solution also allows easy integration into existing structures and offers users the possibility to utilize their own or similar devices („Bring your own device“).