MECSPE 2021: Mixed Reality for the Factory without Limits

Digitization, sustainability, training. These were the key topics of the 19ᵃ edition of MECSPE 2021 held in Bologna in November. At the largest Italian manufacturing fair, all participating companies presented their advanced technologies and products as examples of the opportunities provided by industrial innovation.

HeadApp with its collaborative platform Eye4Task was one of them. “We were guests of our partner Orchestra in the Mixed Reality demonstrator to simulate quality control on board the machine.

This case study, a part of the special initiative “Gamification-The Factory without Limits” we presented with our partners Biesse and Sargomma, was an excellent promotional opportunity to practically show how wearable technologies can modernize the work in the factory and enhance work processes,” says Massimo Banino, CEO of HeadApp.

The Smart Factory: New Generations and Know-How

locane e serangeli

It is no coincidence that Banino uses the verb “to modernize”: MECSPE , in line with the requirements imposed by the generational change, has set as its objective not only the modernization of the factory, but also the need to promote the interaction between 4.0 factories and young people.

Indeed, Italian SMEs have been experiencing great difficulties in recruiting young people to be employed in the production plants. Why? To a large extent this results from a stereotypical belief among young people that the factory is a static place marked by the same identical work and rhythms, with no stimuli in short.

Therefore, companies must find a way of proving the opposite. To do so, they must face a significant challenge, that of skill transfer from retirees to new employees to preserve their know-how. Immersive technologies provide a useful help in training, with data showing how this innovative approach performs better and attracts more young people.

Finding new recruits, attracting them into a smart production process, and fostering interaction between seniors and juniors is therefore fundamental for companies that are increasingly oriented towards immersive technologies.

How to Attract Young People: the Smart Factory Dimension

MECSPE 2021 participants did their best to show young people the new dimension of the smart factory, equipped with wearable devices and hi-tech products.

In this context, giving concrete answers in terms of employment is fundamental, considering the Italian manufacturing positive trend. In effect, according to Senaf’s Mecspe Observatory, in the four-month period 2021, 74% of companies expect to close the year with an increase in turnover. Moreover, 70% are satisfied with how business is generally going.

“It is the restart effect of the last few months that instills optimism in entrepreneurs, in a phase when, unfortunately, the bitter chapter of the pandemic is not yet completely closed,” they emphasize from the Mecspe Observatory. A good signal, therefore, for Italy’s productive fabric and for the younger generations.

To encourage them, the companies exhibiting at the largest Italian manufacturing fair have presented demonstrators capable of showing how production processes are increasingly digital. A transformation that also benefits from the use of wearable devices, such as the exploitation of Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality in the production phases.

Mixed Reality Demonstrator Objectives: Efficiency and Sustainability

As anticipated, Orchestra hosted HeadApp in its demonstrator, together with its partners Biesse, the wood, glass, stone, metal and advanced materials processing machinery manufacturer, and Sargomma, which produces rubber and plastic components, using Biesse machines. The objective? To reproduce a particular factory situation: quality control on board the machine with Mixed Reality.

In the MECSPE workshop of last 25 November, Guido Colombo (CEO of Orchestra), Mirco Anselmi (Country Director Italy of Biesse), Paolo Pallavidino (Technical and Sales Manager of Sargomma Srl) and Valerio Ferrero (Head of Research and Development Unit of HeadApp) examined the use case. Using the enabling technologies of Industry 4.0 – the speakers underlined – effectively streamlines the quality control process on board the machine.

Mecspe e i giovani

What’s more, efficiency meets sustainability: in fact, during the process, the use of MES helps the operator on the field to identify more quickly any non-compliant pieces. Moreover, with the data collection and analysis of the Manufacturing Execution System, the operator understands the problems that generated them. This allows to reduce:

  • Production scraps
  • Reworks
  • Machine cycles

Moreover, there are numerous advantages deriving from the use of collaborative platforms, such as Eye4Task connected to wearable devices, in line with a sustainable perspective also based on smart maintenance, reduction of intervention times and better performance.

MR Case Study for On-Machine Quality Control

The traditional approach to on-machine quality control sees operators taking notes on common paper sheet, walking around the machine to perform inspections and measurements. If they find anomalies, they call in technical experts to take them out into the field.

So many steps that make the entire auditing process extremely long. How to streamline it? We see it in the demonstrator proposed by Orchestra together with HeadApp, Biesse and Sargomma.

The MiniMES4.0 Retuner by Orchestra, designed specifically for SMEs without digitization of production processes, connects production operators on any device, who can then keep track of all stages.

In the simulation given at MECSPE, this innovative automatic software system was installed on the Biesse Group Materia CL (5 axis CNC). This machine, designed for high-speed processing of advanced materials, in this use case is employed for milling and cutting polyurethane resin, with a density of 700 Kg/m3. When the machine is running, the MES collects production data, such as progress status and machine processing parameters.

To show the usefulness and effectiveness of these hi-tech solutions in reducing intervention times and scraps, an abnormal measurement was stimulated during the production of small batches.

What happens? The out-of-range indicator is detected in real time and analyzed by the MiniMES4.0.  The latter, thanks to the integration with the collaborative platform Eye4Task, autonomously creates quality assurance tasks.

MES and Check-List for Measurements with Smart Glasses

These are activities with special check-lists for the operator in the field. The latter, after being notified on his mobile, wears smart glasses.

Realwear HMT was chosen for this purpose. The reason? The reinforced monocular is:

  • Non-invasive
  • Resistant
  • Well-suited to dust-filled factory environments such as manufacturing

It also allows the operator to work in noisy environments with its ambient noise reduction feature.

In the demonstrator, the field operator proceeds with the hands-free visual inspection on the production batch at risk. He has a number of Eye4Task tools at his disposal to perform a quality audit. He can, for example, record a video, take pictures, access other multimedia documentation.

In particular, he has all the tools to check the values required by the product metrics.

mockup checklist eye4task

In this regard, in the demonstrator’s checklist on on-machine quality control, the on-field technician is asked to:

  1. Measure the internal diameter of the Sargomma product processed by the Biesse machine. If needed, he can also access an information sheet on gauges to work independently.
  2. Measure the external part of the product. Here too there is a card with information to continue the activity.
  3. Perform the visual inspection of the part produced and continue with the evaluation thanks to a tool that allows him to have a list of values to choose from to communicate the status of the product (compliant/scrap/to be reworked)
  4. Take photo of the out-of-range part to document and close the task.

At the end of the procedure, the supervisor can download everything and file it as a report created by the Eye4Task collaborative platform. The report includes all the data collected by the operator in the field.

The information is received by the MiniMES4.0 which sets the piece produced as scrap and signals the anomaly in the batch progress.

Before completing the activity, the operator can consult a remote expert for a further check. With the voice command, the operator in the field starts the video call with the Support Room of Eye4Task. In the collaborative live, a remote production expert guides the on-field operator in real time in the evaluation of the lot.

Eye4Task in the Orchestra Demonstrator: the Lean Approach

“The E4T product with which, we were in partnership with Orchestra at MECSPE, offers the opportunity to increase the experience of a user in the field, thus reducing the time of movement inside the factory. A view therefore oriented very much to the Lean Approach, which optimizes the quality assurance process to reduce waste. Precision is also increased: all controls, as seen in the process, are carried out directly on the piece”, says Valerio Ferrero of HeadApp.

The on-field operator has all the control and monitoring information provided by the MES on his smart glasses. These are company reports that the ready2use E4T platform provides, always on time and in different ways, to the expert in the field who performs quality control on board the machine. With this chain, the onfield operator can:

– have accurate data

– perform measurements

– verify productivity

“This allows them to check that everything meets product expectations. Thus ensuring high levels of efficiency. Quality auditing on machinery. As in the case under consideration, the external systems with which we are integrated – concludes Ferrero – actually create activities on our platform, which refer to special check-lists for the operators”.


mecspe test eye4task

As we have seen, the need to renovate factories also goes hand in hand with the need to preserve corporate know-how. In this regard, the training approach in the digital factory is undergoing a transformation. In fact, the traditional approach is being overtaken by a more innovative one, based on the principle of “learning-by-doing” and on the “serious game”, for immersive training that improves the learning and skills of juniors.

A great way to overcome that stereotypical view of the factory as dull and repetitive, lacking stimuli, and to make young people inherit the company’s know-how and the experience handed down by seniors.

Digital transformation, also due to the impulse of Industry 4.0, pushes factories to use hi-tech products and wearable devices during production. Augmented Reality, VR and MR applied to different factory activities, in fact, show how versatile and efficient they are in production cycles. A company becomes increasingly interconnected and integrated with collaborative platforms to improve competitiveness and reduce waste.

MECSPE has highlighted several aspects: we like to think of the synergy of ideas, solutions, digital machinery, to create new production substrates oriented towards a sustainable future in the hands of competent young people, theccustodians of the experience of those who have preceded them.

For more information on the HeadApp software, contact us for a free consultation or visit our Solutions page.

Request a Demo!