Digital Twins, Augmented Reality and Cobots – It’s All About Collaboration
BLOG SPOT – COURTESY OF JABIL
BY JOHN DULCHINOS, VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL AUTOMATION AND 3D PRINTING, JABIL
Factory of the future, intelligent digital supply chain
As the week at Hannover draws to a close it’s a chance to assess the major trends on display this week and what they might mean for us as innovators and manufacturers. As has been the case in recent years, the trends around Industry 4.0 have taken center stage, but this year it feels like the talk has been replaced by real solutions, real experiences and real progress, and the key to that progress is collaboration.
When Industry 4.0 was first introduced it was all about the connection between machines and what that could achieve, but the real success has come because of collaboration between companies and people. Industry 4.0 is large enough a concept that no one company feels the need to own it, leading many to buddy up, finding partners to support their ideas and efforts. This couldn’t
be clearer than on the booth we shared this week in Hannover with Microsoft and their other partners. Several companies were present, using Microsoft technology and applying their own industry specific knowledge and experience to make progress towards a more digital, automated and agile innovation and manufacturing processes. In the Radius Innovation and Jabil area of the booth, we shared our vision of mixed reality in the design environment with hundreds of visitors who queued to don the HoloLens and share a demonstration of the amazing level of collaboration and visualization possible in the design process.
Another important example of collaboration is that between human and robots in a manufacturing environment. As I wrote about earier this week, we’re rapidly expanding from a world of large robots in cages, programmed to do repeatable tasks, to a world of much smaller collaborative robots called cobots who share our work space and learn from us, helping us to deliver more repeatable quality, to move heavy or cumbersome parts or to simply take over mundane tasks. Robotics is moving fast and I believe it is at a tipping point in its application in the manufacturing world. In a recent interview at a robotics event in San Jose, I stated “robots that are collaborative, working alongside people, are opening the door to a new class of applications and we’re starting to see a new generation of mobile robots that will allow us to deliver parts to our manufacturing lines in a more efficient, more automated way.”
Another big topic this week in Hannover has been digital twins, referring to computerized companions of physical assets, used for various purposes. Digital twins use data from sensors on physical objects to represent their near real-time status, working condition or position. This opens up all kinds of possibilities, not only for innovation but for ongoing development during a product’s life, especially when paired with other technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and VR (Virtual Reality). For example, at F1 team McLaren, having the best drivers and state-of-the-art engineering is no longer enough, now they are also using AI. A wide array of sensors built into their Formula 1 cars send data to a mainframe computer at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, UK. There the information is used to create a digital representation, or twin, of the real race car, that runs the race virtually. Using other data like weather, temperature, soil conditions, the computer can conduct predictive analyses and support the real driver with information. For General Electric (Hall 12, Stand D50), the McLaren solution supplier, the digital twin concept also represents a decisive step towards Industry 4.0. “The possibilities are huge,” said Colin Parris, CEO of GE Software Research. “Digital twins allow us to predict wear and damage to vehicles with high precision. We can use them to optimize energy consumption and reduce downtimes to a minimum. And this information not only helps our customers, it makes new business models possible.”
At Jabil we love collaboration, whether it’s with startups, our customers, our vendors, associations or major technology players like Microsoft. Our doors at Blue Sky is San Jose are always open, regularly welcoming those from our industry and other industries to share their vision of what’s coming next to help us do an even better job of delivering innovation.
It’s been a wonderful week in Hannover and we are grateful to Microsoft for hosting us. We’re looking forward to taking what we learned back to our factories and development facilities and putting them into practice along with all the other developments we currently have underway. Exciting times lie ahead as we continue to drive faster innovation and more agile manufacturing, all with the collaboration of our customers and our wonderful partners up and down the supply chain.