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16.07.2018 | Industry 4.0 | News | Onlineartikel

Augmented Reality Helps Build Aircraft Tanks

Nadine Winkelmann

Scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are developing an augmented reality (AR)-based assistance system that should make it easier for engineers to build and maintain aircraft tanks.

Many commercial aircraft are not equipped for long flights because their fuel tanks are too small. Additional tanks that require regular maintenance are therefore needed for long-haul flights. To maintain tanks, engineers have up until now had to climb into them through a small opening. However, engineers often need both hands for assembling components, and new workers in particular also need instructions at the same time. KIT is currently developing software that is expected to help build and maintain aircraft tanks. The software aims to increase employee flexibility, accelerate workflow, as well as connect and optimise processes.

A 3D model of the inside of the tank

"The augmented reality glasses display the work to be done in the engineers' field of vision, who then have their hands free to install or repair components," says Christian Tesch from the Institute of Anthropomatics and Robotics at KIT, Chair of Intelligent Sensor-Actuator-Systems. The glasses are equipped with cameras that scan special markers on the tank in advance. For example, these markers communicate the exact location and size of the tank to the glasses. A transparent 3D computer model of the inside of the tank is then projected onto the "real" tank, meaning that engineers can also look into the closed tank from outside, understand the structure in detail, and get step-by-step instructions. With the help of markings on the ground, the glasses also show where to find the required components in the warehouse, the location of which the glasses also recognise due to markers that the system has already learned.

All calculations required for this concept take place directly in the glasses. An external database can supply additional information on the condition of the tank, the current job status or the component stock so that users are always kept up-to-date. The AR glasses can be operated using gesture and voice control. The software is also expected to work with smartphones and tablets in future. KIT’s collaboration with PFW Aerospace on this project allows the scientists to test and improve the software under real conditions in readiness for its intended launch in early 2019.


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