Audi uses augmented reality to plan logistics

  • December 14, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Augmented reality (AR) is helping German car maker Audi plan complex logistics processes using the latest version of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 device.

The LayAR, for “layout” and “augmented reality”, supports Audi logistics planners when setting up logistics structures in a production hall. The software makes use of existing CAD data for various objects, such as shelves, containers and parts. LayAR visualises this digital twin as a three-dimensional hologram in the AR device and projects it in life size in the actual environment.

This can help planners evaluate future logistics situations. Prototypes of containers or equipment, which can be elaborate to produce, are no longer necessary.

“We use digital technologies systematically in Audi production where they provide us with true Vorsprung,” said Peter Kössler, Audi board member for production and logistics.

This year, the AR devices have become a permanent part of the logistics planners’ toolbox. Through this, their work is made more efficient and can begin significantly earlier. For example, experts in the Ingolstadt body shop are planning machine technology for using a driverless transport system, long before the first automated guided vehicles will be delivered. LayAR will soon also be used for setting up the production of electric vehicles in the main plant.

“In order to visualise structures and relative sizes up to now, we have been using in-house prototypes of containers, shelves and lines elaborately affixed to the floor,” said project manager Tobias Brigl. “This calls for a great deal of imagination. Augmented reality is an ideal tool to close the gap between the real and the virtual worlds.”

The same images are shown on multiple AR devices at the same time through synchronisation. If a user reaches for an object, they can move it, turn it or replace it with simple movements of their hands. All involved can see changes in real time. The shared image simplifies discussion and thus facilitates working together, even beyond the boundaries of sites and national borders. In the future, specialists from other plants or who are working from home can be included in decision-making by web conferences.

A supply chain planning project team tested the software together with development partner Viscopic for a number of months. It is being used during planning workshops in the production hall, during presentations, and in layout discussions in the office.

LayAR makes it possible for planners to miniaturise the entire setup of the hall virtually to the point where it can be projected onto a desk. A virtual tool facilitates precise measurement of distances and areas directly in the holographic image. All changes and results, for example from a workshop, can then be transferred into the CAD data in a couple of seconds. This means all participating employees can immediately continue to work using the new planning status.

The car maker is also using mixed reality in other areas. Audi’s product communications division has already been using virtual exhibits for several years to visualise technical processes and complex technologies for journalists. The holographic animations are based on CAD design data and are presented in 3D using HoloLens data devices during press events.