This use case has been built within a manufacturing environment. The manufacturing process that has been selected for this use case is brazing, which is a process used for joining a wide range of metals and ceramics. A joint is achieved through the melting and solidification of a braze filler metal. This use case will apply the braze filler metal in paste form through a pneumatic dispensing system and then parts will be placed within a vacuum furnace to apply the required heat to form the joint.
The brazing process is highly labour intensive and this use case aims to leverage the 5G-ERA middleware to enhance this manufacturing environment by automating the paste dispensing process using a collaborative robot (cobot). The selected cobot for this use case is a 6-axis modular collaborative arm from Inovo Robotics. The Inovo cobot is perfectly suited to this use case as it can operate in an environment that allows collaboration with human operators. The Inovo arm is modular and can be reconfigured with ease to allow an expansive range of parts to be brazed in this cell. The cobot will automate the control of the pneumatic dispenser and application of the brazing paste to the joint edge. The cobot shall also support the use case by carrying out inspection of the dispensed paste before and after the parts have been subjected to the vacuum furnace, enabling a data-driven approach to pre and post-process quality assessment and inspection.
The following micro-services have been developed and uploaded to the 5G-ERA middleware to support this use case:
Adaptive tool path generation
Robot simulation (digital twin) and control
Communication protocol translation
Mixed reality interface (augmented work instruction)
Robotic braze paste dispensing
Robotic laser scan inspection of braze paste and braze joint
Defect detection for braze inspection
Obstacle and human detection
Using the 5G-ERA middleware, these micro-services are each deployed as separate network applications, which can communicate over 5G networks with the 5G-ERA middleware, allowing us to leverage the power of a distributed deployment architecture. Translation applications, which provide communications protocol conversion for each device in the use case, can be deployed at the edge. Inside the manufacturing cell, this means a lightweight edge PC can be used to host these services, in order to connect the robot controller, dispensing system, laser profiler and depth camera to the wider suite of network applications. More computationally intensive elements, such as adaptive toolpath generation, digital twin and simulation engine can then be hosted separately on a remote server or in the cloud.
Another advantage of the distributed microservices approach is that it will allow multiple parallel deployments to be in place at any given time. Therefore, beyond this use case, additional parallel robotic brazing cells could be installed in other locations without a need to adapt the network applications, and this would be possible using the 5G-ERA middleware. It would be feasible for a number of brazing cells to be installed in multiple locations, each one with an on-site operator able to control and interact with their cell, and a single off-site operator able to remotely support and oversee all deployments.
In this use case, there will be two scenarios that will be demonstrated in which there is an operator solely leading the activities, which will be referred to as the On-Site Operator scenario. The second scenario will be a remote operator engaging with the brazing activities and supporting an operator present in the cell, which will be referred to as the Off-Site Operator scenario.
The on-site operator will engage with the brazing cell with the use of augmented reality headset (Microsoft Hololens). The operator interface with the AR headset to load the job, support calibration and accept/reject operations such as laser scans of parts, deposition of brazing paste and reviewing quality of this deposited paste.
The off-site operator will use a virtual reality (VR) headset to interact with the brazing cell and also communicate with the off-site operator. This is to demonstrate a few possible scenarios where manufacturing environments could be enhanced such as a remote expert providing knowledge and guidance in a quality control or training capacity.