How Nissan production is evolving with MR technology

Mixed reality goggles optimize training procedures

May 17, 2022
  • Products & Technology
  • Manufacturing

One hot topic of conversation is the emergence of the metaverse, VR and other technologies that connect us to the virtual world. These emerging technologies allow us to see and feel things that aren't really there by merging the digital realm with the real world. Nissan is now employing these kinds of technologies for training on some vehicle production lines. Here, we take a look at MR recently introduced to the e-powertrain assembly line.

Differences between VR, AR and MR tech

So how do the various forms of alternative reality – VR, AR and MR – differ? There are some concrete differences in the way these virtual worlds interact with the real world.

Virtual reality (VR)

Via a wearable device such as a headset, VR allows users to experience a virtual world from a first-person perspective. VR is widely used in areas like entertainment, gaming and virtual travel.

Augmented reality (AR)

With AR the real world is virtually augmented by synthesizing digital content into the user’s vision. It can be used to supplement information or bring virtual characters into real-world settings. AR is used in a variety of formats, including smartphone games and navigation systems.

Mixed reality (MR)

MR is a combination of VR and AR. MR features synchronization between the real and virtual worlds. This makes it possible for users to touch and move virtual objects around using their own hands.

These technologies are known collectively as cross reality (XR).

How can MR improve automobile production?

MR goggles were recently introduced to training for the inspection process at the e-powertrain assembly line at the Nissan Tochigi Plant, Japan.

Automated winding of magnet-less field motors: A highly precise nozzle winds wires at high speed with high density, enabling world-first mass production.

The e-powertrain inspection process involves checking up to 30 different items. In the past, instructors trained new workers one-on-one to teach them their tasks. The new workers themselves were tasked with studying various manuals and videos to reach the necessary proficiency level. This required a significant time commitment due to the complexity of the work involved. It therefore made sense to introduce MR to enhance both efficiency and proficiency.

When wearing the MR goggles, pictures and text are superimposed onto a physical e-powertrain, allowing the trainee to immediately grasp the work first-hand. The trainees can review their understanding by pointing to the areas to be checked.

Nissan has also worked with Japanese auto supplier JATCO to develop eye-tracking technology. These functions make it possible to record the trainee even when alone, allowing the instructor to check their understanding later.

Another breakthrough is that even when a physical e-powertrain is unavailable, a 3D model can be viewed with the goggles.

Pictures and text help the trainee grasp their tasks.

The trainee can review. (On-screen text says, “Correct. Proceed to next test.”)

Instructor later checks a recording to confirm proficiency.

Joint development of eye-tracking technology with JATCO

As a result, the learning period has been reduced by half, and instruction time reduced by 90%.

Training period Instruction time
From 10 days to 5 days From 10 hours to 1 hour

More of the background to introducing MR

A shortage of workers in Japan – due to a low birthrate and an aging society – is part of the background to Nissan’s introduction of MR at production sites. In addition, as vehicles are becoming increasingly electrified, intelligent and connected, it is necessary to create a workplace where all employees can work comfortablyand improve their own productivity. Thanks to MR, new workers are able to learn the job faster, allowing instructors to spend more time on more advanced tasks. This valuable system was developed and implemented over approximately one year. But what was that journey like?

For Kazuki Shimizu, the facilities and system engineer in charge of MR development at the Tochigi Plant, it represented a profitable and productive learning curve for everyone involved.

"Our plant is the first Nissan plant to produce EV motors, so the inspection process was a new experience for all of us," he said. "The new system was helpful given that everyone was a beginner.”

Masahito Ide, an instructor, emphasized the value of continued testing to ensure the best results for Nissan customers.

“Even with new technology,” he said, “it is meaningless without being used continuously. We communicated with our development colleagues many times until we were satisfied with the work site and were able to use the technology effectively."

Thanks to Shimizu and Ide's efforts, the MR goggles received a warm welcome at the Tochigi Plant.

"MR is fresh and easy to understand,” said Daiki Matsumoto, an inspector. “It was therefore really enjoyable learning more about how we can work with it."

Thanks to its success at Tochigi, Nissan is now working on expanding this system, a vision of the future, to other production lines.

XR use at Nissan

Nissan is now using XR in a variety of fields. The design department uses it in conjunction with clay modelling techniques to optimize the corrections process.

Nissan also recently recreated its Nissan Crossing brand experience space in Ginza, Tokyo, as a virtual gallery in the Metaverse. Follow this link to experience it as a new frontier of digital communication.

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