Augmented Reality: Welcome to maintenance 4.0!
New technology has not yet finished revolutionizing industry! Already present on Safran’s production sites for several years, augmented reality could be extended to maintenance activities. This was demonstrated in an experiment on landing gear, carried out by Safran Landing Systems.
The concept of augmented reality involves superimposing a 3D digital model onto real equipment and making relevant information appear on a screen (computer, tablet, glasses, etc.). Already used by three firms belonging to the group1, augmented reality has interested Safran Landing Systems—a specialist in landing gear—as it can be used as a solution to facilitate maintenance. “The regulatory documentation provided by the constructors, which determines the official repair procedures, cannot be immediately followed by the operators,” explains Francis Rossignol, MRO2 Support and Coordination Director at Safran Landing Systems. It requires a form of interpretation that demands time and experience, especially as equipment that arrives in the repair workshops is configured differently. In addition to that, there’s the drafting of technical operation reports, as stipulated by regulations, which is highly time-consuming."
A solution for facilitating maintenance
Based on this observation as a starting point, an initial project was launched with the help of a student from the Institute Image (laboratory associated with the Arts et Métiers ParisTech engineering school) in Chalon-sur-Saône, who was on an internship at Safran Landing Systems at the end of his studies. The purpose of this project was to explore the potential of augmented reality in guiding operators in maintenance tasks and automating the drafting of technical operation reports. This gives a considerable competitive edge as an increase in air traffic goes hand in hand with an increase in MRO activities. At the start of 2017, a demonstrator was therefore produced with the French start-up Diota, which specializes in augmented reality applied to industry. “Diota provides some of the best tracking technology on the market,” says Francis Rossignol. After some specific development, we were able to adapt their software to our requirement.”
Two test sites
Initially trialed on 1:6-scale models of landing gear, this demonstrator convinced both the in-house MRO teams and the clients introduced to it. The time then came for a life-size test. Under the project name ARGO™ (Augmented Reality for Ground Operations), the concept has been trialed since the start of 2018 on two maintenance sites of Safran Landing Systems to assess gains in productivity, quality and traceability. “In Gloucester, we aim for top quality right from the first attempt in repairs of Airbus A320 landing gear,” explained Francis Rossignol. “In Molsheim, we are testing its benefits for assistance in putting together the sub-assemblies of A330 landing gear, in compliance checks and in facilitation of final checks.”
While the definitive results of these tests are awaited, the future of the ARGO™ solution is already envisaged, with it introduced in repair workshops in the Asia and Americas regions, as well as the development of new service offerings for operators, notably the possibility of remote assistance.
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Diota, a French start-up in augmented reality
Founded in 2009, Diota is the first French developer of software solutions in augmented reality for industry. Today, the firm employs around 100 people and works for major industrial players, including Safran since 2015. As part of its strategy of supporting start-ups that have developed groundbreaking technology or business models applicable to the aerospace and defense industries, the group acquired a stake in Diota’s capital in 2016 through its investment subsidiary Safran Corporate Ventures.
In 2017, Safran already fine-tuned an augmented reality solution to see through the cabin’s panels with two startups to make easier to detect failures on aircraft wiring.
1 Safran Nacelles (non-destructive check of composite panels of the aircraft engine nacelles), Safran Aircraft Engines (positioning of equipment on the LEAP engine assembly lines), Safran Electrical & Power (plugging in electricity cables and looking for malfunctions through the aircraft partitions).
2 Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul