|Abstract||In the automotive industry, markets are demanding more product models, derivatives and extra equipment with shorter life-cycles. Due to these effects, planning of manual assembly is becoming more complex and diverse. With the current mostly physical mock-up production validation methods, these changes cause considerable increases in production planning costs, product preparation time and and put required quality levels at risk. The use of virtual assessment methods during the production validation phase is a promising countermeasure for these effects.
As of yet, there is no holistic view on virtual production validation in the literature since related publications either offer self-contained, practical approaches or theoretical constructs without direct applicability. In order to bridge this gap, this doctoral thesis focuses on the analysis, development, integration and evaluation of collaborative, virtual methods for assessments of manual assembly processes in the manufacturing industry.
This research focuses on the question whether collaborative virtual environments can support production validation workshops, so that verification criteria can be assessed in the same quality, less time and with lower costs compared to hardware-based workshops.
A new system is being developed and proposed, called the "Virtual Manufacturing Station" (VMS). It is a framework for holistic virtual production validation. The VMS consists of a multi-display environment, sensors and software components so that it can be used in interactive, collaborative, virtual production validation workshops. In order to provide production validation engineers with such a virtual framework, six theoretical key properties are derived for the VMS: "collaborative virtual environments", "multi-user support", "original size visualization", "natural user interfaces", "integration of physical and digital mock-ups" and "asymmetric/symmetric output." This theoretical framework is based on four research areas with each contributing to at least one of the theoretical key properties. These areas are "VR simulation software", "markerless, full-body motion capture", "large high-resolution displays" and "spatial augmented reality."
This doctoral thesis presents advances in basic human computer interaction research, technology, production validation methodology substantiated by the following studies: Two contextual inquiry studies on virtual production validation, two technological evaluations using a markerless full-body motion capture system presented, a systematic design space analysis for spatial augmented reality, a standardized benchmark for VR assessments of manual assembly tasks, a size perception study, and five studies on basic research related to virtual production validation. The latter research studies cover a broad investigation scope, such as measurement of task completion times, error rates and qualitative feedback.
Overall, these studies have demonstrated that the VMS framework is reliable and applicable for collaborative virtual production validation workshops. Although this research has been conducted for the automotive sector, the presented VMS framework is also applicable to the manufacturing industry in general. The VMS methods and tools discussed contribute to higher workshop collaboration performance, lower task completion times, reduced preparation work and a reduced dependency on physical mock-ups. The VMS reduces the overall costs in production validation while simultaneously maintaining the validation quality.||dc.description.abstract