Expanding manufacturing's vision: MTConnect + Google Glass

Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) has released MTConnect + Google Glass, a free Glassware application that monitors machine tools using Google Glass.

MTConnect lowers the barriers to Manufacturing Intelligence, even to as complex a supply-side manufacturing chain as a fortune 500 company. Google Glass--a Heads-Up Display, camera, touchpad, microphone, email and internet connection built into a spectacle frame--coupled with MTConnect functionality, will provide a view into the manufacturing process that until now has been unattainable. The Google Glass user will be liberated from laptops and hand-held smart devices and be able to travel the entire shop floor, gathering and sharing machine data provided by MTConnect, and accessing the internet for more information as he goes.

The opportunities inspiring the merger between MTConnect and Google Glass are twofold. The first opportunity is in the exploitation of Augmented Reality (AR). AR generates a composite view for the user that is the combination of the real scene, as viewed by the user, and a virtual scene generated by the computer with additional information such as sound, video, graphics, GPS data, or, in this case, manufacturing data via MTConnect. Google Glass becomes a natural extension of MTConnect's view into machines, providing intuitive and user-friendly access to manufacturing data.

The second opportunity lies in the commonalities between MTConnect and Google Glass: the implementation of both is easily achievable, and they are extensible and scalable. Both could be implemented on a small scale and grow with the needs and knowledge base of the facility.

Every department in a manufacturing facility benefits from MTConnect + Google Glass, from the shop floor to the management suite. A new machine operator watches YouTube training videos while at the machine, supplementing his training program. Getting and sharing information on the machine and its processes would be as intuitive and non-threatening as using his smartphone or playing a video game. An experienced machine operator sends an email to the maintenance staff as soon as he sees a problem. The CEO travels the shop floor, getting accurate real-time machine data and comparing it to the company's accounting, quality control, sales and engineering data. Project managers evaluate workflow and machine readiness before scheduling future work. They also access 100% accurate data and share information with their customers to ensure smooth delivery between vendors. The maintenance staff becomes even more astute at monitoring machines and they respond quicker to problems, while developing stronger preventative maintenance programs. With Google Glass, they can "see" instruction manuals overlaid on the equipment when installing or repairing machinery. The sales staff provides guided Google Glass tours, impressing prospects with the capabilities of the facility and helping them visualize the final product.

Data streams from MTConnect Agents directly to Google Glass. Google Glass recognises the machine tool, grabs appropriate information from MTConnect and parses the MTConnect stream to display it in a user-friendly way for the Google Glass wearer. The user will be able to view the following information from the MTConnect-compatible equipment: Power Status, Emergency Stop, Alarm/Messages, Block, Controller Mode, Line, Program, Execution, Path Feed-Rate, Spindle, Axis Positions, Spindle Overrides, Feed-Rate Overrides, Machine Location, Part Location, and Current Part Status. Also, if there is a camera inside the machine, Google Glass will stream the video to the user and overlay the machine data so the user can compare, analyze and make quick decisions. The user could record and share this data seamlessly with all appropriate parties.

MTConnect + Google Glass will provide a holistic experience of the factory floor that integrates user and machine in a uniquely personal way. The benefits of MTConnect are enhanced due to the faster and more comprehensive delivery method. Google Glass also extends easy-to-understand information to all employees, including administrative and marketing staff that aren't familiar with the shop floor. In fact, Google Glass is the ultimate ergonomically advanced resource. Glasses are comfortable and don't distract from the task, like handheld devices. When coupled with machine cameras, employee safety is improved since the need to access tall or complex machinery is minimized. And finally, there is a psychological benefit. Because the user's expanded vision of machine tools and manufacturing processes, the employee experiences a greater mastery over his environment, thereby increasing morale and job performance.

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