3-D holographic technology being developed for advanced manufacturing applications

The Australian arm of global defense and security company Saab has partnered with Microsoft to build a range of training, education and other complex 3-D holographic applications and are developing a proof-of-concept using a Lego model.
By Andrew Spence April 24, 2016

Saab Australia, which has partnered with Microsoft, will use a model of its Gripen fighter jet to prove the value of HoloLens technology. Courtesy: Alan Wilson, The Lead South AustraliaWork is underway on software that aims to use hologram technology and Lego-inspired assembly to help manufacture some of the world’s most complex machines.

The Australian arm of global defense and security company Saab has partnered with Microsoft to build a range of training, education and other complex 3-D holographic applications. Worn as goggles by users, the Microsoft HoloLens Platform is the first fully untethered, holographic computer, enabling interaction with high‑definition holograms.

Saab Australia Head of Training and Simulation Inger Lawes said the company had identified three initial markets: its traditional defense and security market, the enterprise market, large corporations wanting bespoke applications to address a specific need, and internal applications for the company’s own development.

“We want to stay within our business of defense and security but we also want to explore applied markets such as using HoloLens to support sophisticated manufacturing,” he said.

“Most design work these days is done on a computer and is called model-based design. What we want to do is support model-based assembly where the models that are designed on a computer are represented holographically.

As an internal test, Lawes said the company used a Lego model of the company’s Gripen fighter jet as a starting point to prove the value of the technology to its assembly team in Sweden.

“We’re going to use model-based assembly software as the background but we’re going to use Lego components,” he said.

“Everyone understands Lego so it is a fantastic vehicle to demonstrate this sort of thing and get people as enthusiastic as we are and prove to them that you can build things in this environment and if we can build it with Lego we can do it with everything else.”

Lawes said the company would initially focus on internal applications for HoloLens but would deliver something for its first external customer in September.

“We expect very quickly to be able to look at this technology to support any highly complex assembly or design work, it just happens that we are in that business ourselves so the logical thing is to start doing it internally,” he said.

Lawes said the way to think of HoloLens was as a self-contained high-end computer with standard features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB.

Holographic images are projected onto the goggles’ optical lens and appear in the field of vision about a meter from the user’s eye.

“Most of the really complicated things will rely on having some sort of server or access to a database and streaming it to the device rather than loading it up with a packaged application,” Lawes said.

“It just opens up an almost infinite number of possibilities to draw on information and have that information rendered as a model and just work with it."

Lawes said the technology would explore “uncharted waters."

“The way we will chart that direction is people will come to us and say ‘we’ve got this idea and we’d like to use the technology in this particular way’ and we’ll have a discussion about that and more than likely, out of that will pop something quite spectacular,” he said.

“It’ll be the users by and large who come up with the ideas.”

The Lead South Australia


– Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, Control Engineering, cvavra@cfemedia.com. See related stories linked below.