Although many electronics assembly processes are automated there are still a number of manual steps required for assembly, integration and testing. Like all manual processes there are always opportunities to improve productivity and maximize product quality.
The ARS addresses these needs by displaying an image of the product being worked on. The ARS overlays images of production support information directly on the product image. Markers can be displayed to indicate:
- part placement
- integration of sub-assemblies
- test points
- locations for lubrication, adhesive or application of other chemicals
Fabrication or manufacturing documentation related to a specific part or sub-assembly can be displayed. The ARS can display part geometries or schematics for circuit boards.
The project scope began with small circuit cards and is expanding to handle much larger assemblies with the potential to eventually address room-sized systems of equipment.
Figure 1 - Size range of Raytheon products
This project has spanned multiple semesters, each addressing a different set of features or system enhancement:
- Basic augmented reality functions for small circuit boards.
- Improved correlation between the product’s image and the overlay graphics.
- Evaluate approaches for supporting larger products.
- Evaluate and apply Virtual Reality headset technology.
The ARS captures an image of the product, such as a circuit card assembly as seen in Figure 2.
This screen shot shows the underlying printed circuit board, an overlay of the board’s silk screening, and 3D images of one of the components to be inserted.
A mockup has been created to simulate large cabinets such as a radar assembly as seen in Figure 3
Figure 3 - ARS Development station with radar assembly mock-up and view of ARS display
The project has resulted in an ARS platform for further development and exploration of the problem space.
Raytheon has been gaining experience in the possibilities of applying augmented reality to a production floor environment, moving it from a lab experiment to a practical implementation. Such capabilities could then be applied to other products in other areas of Raytheon’s diverse manufacturing portfolio.
The students have been learning about the challenges of applying theory to practice. They are becoming better able to understand the challenges of creating stable software for a variety of end users who are not necessarily computer experts.
Students from the electrical and computer systems engineering department have learned programming skills relate to specific technologies such as user interfaces, image processing, vision systems, and more. They have also learned how to work on large scale software projects that include development work from a large number of individuals.
Our mechanical and industrial management students have learned how systems like this can be used in a production environment and how they can bring benefits to the factory floor. They have also learned to appreciate the challenges of producing meaningful project documentation.