Ellie Smith, a research student at Strathclyde University’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), has carried out research examining the use of Industry 4.0 technologies in the manufacturing and energy industries. The research was carried out as part of Renewable Engine, a €6.1 million EU INTERREG VA funded cross-border research and innovation programme led by South West College.
Working alongside her industrial sponsor, Booth Welsh, Ellie’s research explored the challenges facing the offshore wind industry which include the high cost of access, dangerous weather conditions and high downtime costs. Furthermore the research project examined how Augmented Reality (AR) technologies could be used to blend views of the real world with digital information to improve ‘right-first-time performance’ and conditions for maintenance technicians.
Reflecting on Ellie’s research, her academic supervisor, Professor Paul Blackwell said:
‘I want to congratulate Ellie on her work which was carried out under quite challenging conditions that required her to adapt her experimental methodology to the limitations imposed by the pandemic. Ellie developed a set of novel tests that allowed her to explore the opportunities that the use of augmented as well as more generally mixed technology provide in the context of training the next generation of engineers and also supporting experienced engineers carrying out off-shore wind turbine maintenance.’
Ellie’s findings demonstrated that the use of mixed reality technology could significantly reduce (by over 60%) the time required for fault finding, for example, on a simulated 3 phase electrical system while also reducing the level of cognitive effort required.
Following a series of lab based studies and experiments to determine the most effective way of displaying AR procedural instructions, support from the industrial partnership equipped Ellie with the resources to scale up the experiments to consider more industrially relevant tasks and as a result of the pandemic the research project also explored how AR technology could be used to aid in manufacturing training when access to physical assets is limited
The Renewable Engine Programme was supported with €6.1 million funding through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding has been provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland and Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Ireland