Monday , October 22 2018

Evaluation of a Haptic Environment for
Assembly Task Simulation

Diana POPESCU1, Robert IACOB1, Frederic NOEL2,
Cedric MASCLET2, Thibault LOUIS2

1 University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest,
313 Splaiul Independentei, Bucharest – 060042, Romania
diana@mix.mmi.pub.ro, robert.iacob@gmail.com
2 Grenoble Institute of Technology,
46 avenue Félix Viallet, Grenoble – F38031, France
frederic.noel@grenoble-inp.fr, cedric.masclet@grenoble-inp.fr, thibault.louis@grenoble-inp.fr

Abstract: A new application for virtually simulating assembly tasks was developed by integrating multimodal data and kinematic information provided by a mobility module into a Collaborative Virtual Environment. During assembly simulations, the haptic device implemented in the application supports the user’s movements by using the automatically detected kinematic constraints between the components of the assembly. Thus, all stages of the assembly process can be simulated, which leads to an increase of the user immersion. The current paper presents the methodology, the protocols and the results of evaluating the application, the test being performed by a group of 20 participants. Tasks were run for assessing the following criteria: usability, efficiency, ease of use and quality of the haptic feedback. Each participant tested the application for two types of assemblies (mounting flange and standard vise) with different complexity and number of components. Testing protocols considered both objective evaluation (using real-time information), as well as subjective evaluation using questionnaires. The analysis of the results proved the feasibility of the proposed approach. Further work will be focused on extensive studies for assessing intra-users variations and improvement of the haptic feedback for a number of particular situations reported by users as important.

Keywords: Assembly/Disassembly, Virtual Environment, Haptic Interfaces.

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CITE THIS PAPER AS:
Diana POPESCU, Robert IACOB, Frederic NOEL, Cedric MASCLET, Thibault LOUIS, Evaluation of a Haptic Environment for Assembly Task Simulation, Studies in Informatics and Control, ISSN 1220-1766, vol. 24 (3), pp. 329-338, 2015.

  1. Introduction

Nowadays, a lot of effort has been made to develop virtual tools for different purposes: cooperative ideas generation (Thorsteinsson, 2010), production optimization (Debevec, 2014), assembly simulation (Seth, 2008), etc. In this context, engineers cannot even consider developing and manufacturing a successful product without the use of 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) systems or, more recently, without using Virtual Environments (VEs).

Assembly, as a complex process with high impact on the product development, has been intensively studied for increasing its overall efficiency while maintaining its profitability. In order to achieve these goals, engineers make use of different knowledge, tools and methods (Pupaza, 2014), (Iacob, 2013) for supporting their work and for the early evaluation of their design decisions over the assembly cost and time. Efficient design software applications are offering the possibility to generate and use completely parameterized virtual 3D assembly models for automating activities such as: component design changes propagation within assembly, BoM (Bill of Materials) generation, interference checking or component reuse. Lately, there is a trend in developing software products as add-ons of different 3D CAD systems for generating valid Assembly and Disassembly (A/D) sequences plans, for identifying functional components and for simulating A/D operations, which represent three important aspects not yet completely resolved by the commercial CAD packages. These complex research subjects are also part of the same effort of overall improvement of the design process by transferring the focus on product assembly design, rather than on component design. However, in order to be efficient, these design approaches should consider how the real A/D tasks are performed and try to implement algorithms which avoid generating unfeasible A/D trajectories. In addition, they should provide more realistic boundary conditions than just trajectory extreme points. Although the aid provided by these automatic software tools is important, the final decision belongs to the designer. The applications provide a list of results and, sometimes, a number of criteria for ordering, thus the engineer should be able to check different feasible solutions in order to choose the best one. In this context, we consider that immersive simulations based on data automatically extracted and processed from CAD assembly models can eliminate some of these disadvantages, representing a necessity of the modern engineering design.

Haptic technology can give back engineers the sense of touch that they lose when using CAD products, and combining this with an application focused on generating assembly kinematic constraints, will not only reduce the complexity of collision detection algorithms, but also will provide users’ a realistic feeling when simulating assembly and disassembly operations. Therefore, a haptic A/D simulation VE, which can provide information and data regarding valid A/D trajectories (translations, rotations and helical ones) or accessibility trajectories, becomes a more efficient and useful tool for an engineer, during the Product Development Process (PDP) or training. In this sense, we developed an A/D simulation application that implements a mobility module based on kinematic constraints between assembly components in a Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE). A haptic device was implemented in the application in order to provide the users the possibility to perform A/D tasks in a similar manner as in the real environment, thus increasing the quality of the immersive environment. The current paper presents the evaluation of this application performed by a group of 20 participants for two types of assembly models: one with a low difficulty (mounting flange) and one with a medium difficulty (standard vise). The experiments were conducted using the Virtuose haptic interface with 6 DoFs (Degrees of Freedom) developed by the French company Haption.

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https://doi.org/10.24846/v24i3y201510