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HoloLens ‘astounds’ workers on Toyota’s factory floor in Japan

Koichi Kayano’s way of thinking about work changed the day he first put on a Microsoft HoloLens headset.

“I was astounded because it lets us do the things we had never done before,” said the project manager at Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan.

He and his team now use the precise mixed reality (MR) capabilities of HoloLens to streamline tasks, improve quality, and solve problems – from inspecting the thickness of paint on vehicles to ensuring employee safety to installing factory equipment.

Inspection of paint thickness

The eye-catching finish of a new car does not come easy. At Toyota, the coating film thickness of every vehicle goes through a strict inspection process to ensure it is uniform and evenly distributed. Until now, that had been a laborious task. Custom-made papers — with holes at regular intervals — had to be cut and carefully applied onto a car’s curved surface. The holes served as guides for workers with measuring equipment, who scan the whole vehicle.

The process was tedious. A single inspection would take two people an entire day to complete.

With HoloLens, the process of inspecting paint thickness of new cars has reduced from a day to two hours.

Now with HoloLens, one person can do in just two hours.

Kayano’s have designed an app that enables them to skip the cut and paste process. Using HoloLens, a digital array of dots is projected directly onto a real car. Workers with HoloLens headset scan and inspect a car’s painted surface quickly and easily. This increases their productivity and frees up their time to do more meaningful tasks.

Relocation of plant equipment

Toyota also uses HoloLens to visualize how machinery can be installed and arranged on the factory floor — at scale, and in 3D — to determine how and where it can be located inside the building. For instance, when a large laser welder machine needed to be replaced at Toyota Motor East Japan, Inc., Toyota workers used HoloLens to examine a simulation, or “virtual review,” first.

Simulations are reviewed with HoloLens first before equipment is brought in to avoid collisions with other machines and structures.

The headset, along with MR business application “Dynamics 365 Layout,” enable a user to arrange full-size models in real space, without having to physically move the equipment. This helps to avoid possible collision with other machines and structures.

“You can check if the machine can be brought in or removed, and see if the location is near a pillar, or too close to other machines, “ said Kayano, “These and other checks are made possible, which is a real advantage with HoloLens.”

Improving work safety

The combined functions can even be used to secure the safety of workers. With HoloLens and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, Kayano can assess possible safety hazards remotely, while experiencing the same sensations and perspective of workers who are on site.

Kayano says HoloLens will be used in many more ways: “We are confident that HoloLens will dramatically change the way we work.”