Manufacturing could be one of the sectors to become more efficient with increased digitisation thanks to technology which is currently being used in the gaming industry.

Key facts

    • The competitiveness of the manufacturing industry could be boosted by new information and communication technologies (ICT).

    • Using gaming interface technology, we have already shown it is possible to simultaneously track and digitise human actions plus the resultant reactions on workpieces (an object being worked on with a tool or machine) in a manufacturing environment.

    • We aim to develop a digital framework which will capture, model and learn from how people interact with manufacturing environments and physically perform complicated jobs on the manufacturing shop floor.

  • Funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, GE, Jaguar Land Rover and Airbus Group.

Impact of our research

Our ambition is to digitally record the physical response of humans to both expected and unexpected events on the manufacturing shop floor, potentially leading to increased productivity in skill-intensive manual manufacturing tasks.

In addition, virtual representations of factory environments could be created which can be used to predict and evaluate the impact of different factors on production efficiency or for people to ‘meet’ and ‘walk through’ the environment, virtually.

These technologies could boost the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry. In the short term, analysing the digitised human / workplace interactions could provide information useful for productivity assessments and redesign of factories. Also, the skills of experienced workers could be digitised and transferred to apprentices via skills demonstrations, reducing the need for long apprenticeships.

In the longer term, human skills models generated by capturing and modelling human-workplace interactions could provide the intelligence behind automating such tasks, helping to overcome current limitations in skilled and semi-skilled workers for the UK manufacturing sector.

Why the research was commissioned

Every manual manufacturing task comprises an interaction between a person and an innate object: a person’s action on an object is followed by feedback from it, to which the worker subsequently reacts. This reaction could be physical or audible.

By recording these actions and reactions using 3-D sensing devices, such as the KinectTM and the PrimeSense3DTM, which can now capture and track human skeletal motion, the human response to expected and unexpected events in manufacturing can be digitally recorded.

Prior to 2010, it was difficult and expensive to track human movements and workpiece changes simultaneously in manufacturing environments. The availability of human skeletal motion data together with the ability to track changes within a workplace in three dimensions means human-environment interactions can be captured and tracked inexpensively.

Why Cranfield?

High-tech gaming consoles enable people to immerse themselves completely in game environments. This technology enables people to accomplish tasks using human actions and analysis of games situations, based on observation and instinctive reactions.

We have already shown it is possible to simultaneously track and digitise human actions, plus the resultant reactions, using gaming interface technology.

With expertise in both manufacturing and informatics, we provide an ideal environment to host and lead this exciting research.

Facilities used

Manufacturing Informatics Laboratory (provides the latest hardware and software for capturing, digitising and visualising manufacturing operations).