HYDAC rises to the challenge of Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing with VR training

HYDAC Australia, in conjunction with Deakin Motion Lab, has constructed a virtual reality (VR) training system – amid many others in the pipeline – to meet the urgent requirement for trained complex machinery technicians.

The fluid power company recently invited a German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK) contingent to a VR training session at its Altona premises. Guests were given Oculus Quest VR headsets that permitted direct interaction with the VR training unit while using their virtual hands and real voices to communicate with each other and execute assessment tasks such as cleaning coolers and changing pressure elements and hydraulic filters to checking the pressure of hydro-pneumatic accumulators.

Henkell Brothers managing director, Hans Henkell, said he is fascinated by the replicability of the system. “I see VR training as being just as necessary in every other industry as it is in the field of hydraulics for training and advertising etc. It’s also huge from an entertainment point of view – the possibilities are endless,” he said.

Nord Drivesystems Australia managing director Max Jarmatz comments that it was the first time he has ever undertaken VR maintenance. “It’s pretty impressive to see how real the VR experience compares to the actual machine we saw earlier in the tour; the guidance, checklist in place and tools all look pretty real. I believe that after the training I could be sent on-site to effectively service the machine, which is pretty impressive.”

Phase two of the project is centred on getting to full digital twin technology, which digitally reproduces real-world objects, devices and equipment followed by phase three’s transition to Microsoft’s HoloLens.

“Digital twin technology comprises enabling technology and a simulation model; it is a digital prototype of computer-driven applications such as operations or systems. It has the functionality to construct simulations to track production processes from raw materials to end product while making a searchable production record available,” Keen said.

“This means that complex production sequences can be analysed in the manufacturing sector to avoid problems before they take place, sees gaps for development and plan for the future strategically.”

The HoloLens permits collaboration and communication in real time with participants and trainers scattered across the globe through the streaming of real-time data during training sessions.

“Through this technology participants can visit an augmented reality digital twin of their project from any location worldwide,” Keen said. “Any number of students can participate in HoloLens training, with engaged experts at hand to provide crucial information and warnings such as to not touch some piece of equipment while verifying that learning is taking place correctly. This type of technology really constitutes ideal continuation of student support once training is completed.”

Keen said that there is no question that leveraging know-how on complex manufacturing equipment through use of these new training technologies can only assist manufacturing companies secure many advantages when facing the constraints and competitiveness inherent in the industry.

“We’ve put together packages where we can provide a spectrum of training from occupational health and safety training to orientation training that will sign off an operator as being competent to service and maintain equipment without ever touching the actual equipment. This is massive for manufacturing stakeholders companies and constitutes a huge possibility for many other industries,” he said.