BMW relies on AR and VR in production and training

BMW relies on AR and VR in production and training

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

VR technology enables planners for buildings, plants, logistics and assembly to assess new production areas completely virtually together with production employees and to rehearse new processes in 3D. This type of planning is based on digitized factory data available in 3D.

For several years now, the BMW Group has been digitally capturing the real structures of its plants with particular 3D scanners and high-resolution cameras to an accuracy of just a few millimetres. This provides a three-dimensional image of the production process. Complex, digital reconstruction of the real structures and manual recording on site are no longer necessary. When planning future workplaces or entire assembly halls, the BMW Group’s specialist departments now combine the existing data with a virtual library containing around 50 particularly common resources such as shelves, mesh boxes or containers for small parts.

In engine assembly, visualizations guide the user through all work steps and provide specific information. The speed of the training is determined by the participants themselves via voice control. Three participants can train AR-supported at the same time, briefly guided and supervised by a trainer. Whereas previously one trainer could only instruct one person in all process steps, now three trainees are trained simultaneously.

The engine assembly training can also be adapted to other bolting processes using software developed by BMW for designing training programs. On a normal computer, the points of interest to be highlighted are first defined as points of interest and then virtually anchored with the aid of AR glasses – that’s it.  The program for designing AR-supported training sessions will be available to all interested employees in the course of 2019.

Checking a new, complex part weighing up to 25 tons, such as a press tool for manufacturing body parts, can be time-consuming. If the inspection takes place as soon as the goods arrive, any incomplete tool can be returned before it reaches an interim storage facility. Thanks to the use of AR, this inspection can be carried out easily and quickly:  BMW employees fix a standard tablet on a tripod. The built-in camera generates a live image of the tool. An AR application now superimposes this image with the CAD data, i.e. the geometric data of the tool ordered. On the basis of an average of 50 criteria such as drill holes and other unique surface features, the employee recognizes whether all production features have been implemented. In the event of minor deviations, it can be useful to rework the tool on site – because early diagnosis allows sufficient time before the tool is sent to the assembly area for completion with further components.

In the course of this year, the tool shop at the Munich location will completely convert the incoming inspection of delivered tools to the AR application. The tedious comparison between CAD data on the screen and the tool will then finally be a thing of the past.


Another AR application that BMW is now using is the comparison of a vehicle’s design data with its actual implementation. Using AR glasses on pre-production vehicles, experts can check the design maturity and correct installation position of components in these vehicles. For example, it can be determined whether a fender complies with the prescribed dimensions, whether an exhaust system has the correct installation position or whether all the necessary parts have been installed.

The visualization of the corresponding CAD data only takes a few seconds. Data from several parts can be combined as desired and placed over the camera image of the tablet PC. An algorithm calculates ‘best fit’, i.e. the ideal position of individual components in relation to each other, and highlights important design features. The application, developed jointly with the Fraunhofer Institute for Graphical Data Processing, thus provides important information on whether design adjustments are necessary before a model goes into production and whether manufacturing processes have already reached series maturity.


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