Hiring of new researchers (PhD level), and development of the first applications with the new infrastructure (WP1)

A number of 10 PhD students and 2 posdocs have been hired specifically within the project VEGA

Table 1.1. VEGA PhD students and postdocs

 

Nr. crt

 

PhD student name

 

PhD supervisor

Level

 

Scientific area
of the thesis

1

Florin Girbacia

Prof. Doru Talaba

PhD

VR in CAD

2

Tiberiu Butnaru

Prof. Doru Talaba

PhD

Haptics in VR based simulation and Virtual prototyping

3

Andreea Beraru

Prof. Doru Talaba

PhD

Optimisation of the co-located representations in VE

4

Ciprian Aron

Prof. Gh. Mogan

PhD

Virtual Assembly

5

Sebastian Sisca

Prof. Gh. Mogan

PhD

Virtual testing

6

Ionescu Marius

Prof. Gh. Mogan

PhD

CAPP based on vision 

7

Cojanu Cosmin

Prof. Gh. Mogan

PhD

Virtual Manufacturing

8

Alexandru Itu

Prof.Ionel Staretu

PhD

Virtual grasping for robotics applications

9

Eugen Butila

Prof. Aurel Jula

PhD

CAD Expert systems

10

Hunor Erdelyi

Prof. Doru Talaba

PhD

Virtual Prototyping

11

Silviu Butnariu

-

Postdoc

CAD/CAE

12

Marilena Radu

-

Postdoc

CAD/CAE

 

Six of the researchers have been newly recruited for VEGA purposes, while 4 already registered PhDs have been integrated in order to secure a balanced composition of the research team. The postdocs are also newly recruited researchers thanks to VEGA project.

Out of the PhD supervisors and PhD students mentioned in the table the research team includes further a number of permanent academic staff:
10. Dr Csaba Antonya– responsible for the WG4 Augmented Reality
11. Prof. Olimpiu Munteanu – responsible with the dissemination
12. Prof. Codruta Jaliu - project VEGA secretary
13. Dr Mihai Lates, responsible with the WG3 Virtual testing
14. Prof. Emil Chisu, responsible with publications
15. Prof. Dan Savescu, responsible with the event organisation

Using the infrastructure developed as described in the previous chapter, several applications have been initiated for the product life cycle areas and are in current development. They are briefly presented hereinafter.

  • VR based design and simulation
    The first field of application targeted within VEGA project corresponds to the field of CAD and CAE that is a traditional field of teaching and research in the PDR department.
    It is an application that requires the use of the entire multimodal interface previously described. At this moment, all modalities are engaged, except haptic feedback, which will be integrated in a later stage.
    Virtual Environments provide new perspectives for user interaction with Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools. VE enhance the immersion feeling and the depth perception of 3D objects, bringing information with less perceptive ambiguities. This opportunity is important for a CAD application where users must have a good appreciation of object dimensions. In addition, devices like 6 dof trackers or data gloves offer users the possibility to interact with more natural gestures than the mouse and keyboard input of workstations.
    On current CAD software, most of editing commands are issued with the aid of widgets and alphanumeric data input. Such interactions do not fit in VE. The objective of the VEGA CAD research workgroup is to develop a multimodal immersive interaction interface with a legacy solid modeler (SolidWorks and AutoCAD). In this way, the native CAD functionality are conserved and the VR interface deals only with the user interaction aspects for `           
    The approach adopted is keeping all CAD software functions implemented by the producer and is aiming to offer a VR user interface as an alternative to the classical interface that uses keyboard, mouse and 2D display menus and widgets (fig. 6).

Fig.6. CAD in Virtual Environment (PhD Florin Garbacia
working  in the Holo-CAVE developed by the VEGA team )

 

The VR modalities that are most relevant from the CAE simulation viewpoint are (immersive) stereo visualization and haptics. The first allows further realism of the simulations and adding facilities useful at the assessment of the “virtual prototype” such as walking arround, freezing the system during the simulation and taking instant measurements, increasing the coherence of the graphic content and thus possibility to superimpose in the virtual environment multiple simulations and inspecting them comparatively etc. Haptic modality is far more interesting from the viewpoint of Multibody Systems (MBS) simulation as it allows force feedback between the real and virtual worlds.
Haptic interaction in the dynamic simulation could be used (i) to exert forces on the multibody system and change the simulation input in real time,  (ii) to allow the user to directly assess the force feedback from various products as result of their operation. Several applications have already been developed at PDR department as result of the support provided by the project VEGA especially related to the haptic manipulation of mechanisms in a virtual environment or testing a virtual mechanism in a real test-rig (virtual testing). In the case of haptic manipulation of virtual mechanisms, several scenarios have been tested, using various haptic devices. The objective was to allow the user to interact with the mechanism in the most natural possible ways (fig. 7). The experiments conducted are described hereinafter
(i). Desktop Phantom haptic manipulation of a virtual mechanism (fig. 8) relies on the use of the Phantom haptic device and a conventional desktop VR system. In this case the user manipulates a virtual sphere in the virtual environment, allowing to interact with the virtual mechanism with “push” manipulation tasks in real time. The mechanism was simulated using the multi-particle system previously proposed by the authors, which, for the case of the considered mechanism, offers comfortably real time simulation capability. However, the tests achieved proved little added value of the haptic feedback, since the interaction with the virtual objects was provided only via 3 dof touching, which is just an unilateral contact, from the mechanical viewpoint.

Fig.7. Manipulation of a mechanism
 in a virtual environment
Fig. 8. Desktop haptic manipulation of a virtual mechanism

(Dr Antonya Csaba, PhD Florin Garbacia)

(ii) Augmented Reality based virtual prototyping. For this application a special 1 dof haptic device was developed, in order to allow hand actuated manipulation of the virtual mechanisms (fig. 9). The input device contains a Maxon DC motor and an Epos controller. In the Trivision HMD the input revolute join and the tested virtual mechanism are super-imposed.
(iii) The third implementation relies on the use of SPIDAR haptic device and has as objectives to experiment the manipulation of a virtual mechanism. Grasping in the virtual environment is achieved using a multi-point contact scheme. This is accomplished using multiple four wired SPIDAR devices that are able to control 3 dof touching points in the virtual environment. In fig. 10 a technical solution is presented for the case of two-finger device which allows 5+1 dof manipulation in a virtual environment.
(iii) For virtual testing, the existing Siemens test rig was used to test a virtual mechanism (fig. 11).
Fig.9. Haptic manipulation with Augmented 
reality device (PhD Tiberiu Butnaru)
Fig.10. Two-finger wired haptic device
(PhD Tiberiu Butnaru)

Fig.11. Virtual testing application developed withing VEGA (PhD Sebastian Sisca)

  • Manufacturing and assembly
In the fig.12 the VR environment associated of real flexible cell (fig. 5) is presented, which contains all necesary operational equipments. Based on the use of VR environment (fig.13) simulation of the complex logistics to manufacture and assembly various mechanical elements and products becomes possible. Thus, the efficiency of cell planning and trajectories of end robots effectors are optimized. The obtained results are used in programming the real cell and of the real robots.   Using the above presented infrastructure it is possible to identify and control the positioning precision and forces during the real assembly process (e.g. mounting of bearings on shafts and housings) with performant compliance devices.  Also, collaborative robots activities are possibly to be studied. Additionally, the ergonomics of VR interfaces can be evaluated. At the end of VEGA first year, an open day was organized, at which the main relevant companies in Romania participated as well as representatives of similar research departments from other Universities and also local companies, and research groups. The impact was significant in terms of reputation as well in terms of future collaborations with the industrial companies. Thus the most important perspectives are seen in relation with Siemens and LMS International companies, with which cooperation has been already established for research, but also partners from abroad that expressed their will to join the VEGA partnership.

 Fig.12. Simulation of  the  flexible cell

Fig.13. Simulation of the manufacturing cell in CAVE (PhD Aron
Ciprian, PhD Eugen Butila, PhD Florin Garbacia, PhD Andreea Beraru)

The project VEGA represents just the beginning of the research in this area at the PDR department. The achievements after the first year of the project represent a big step of the team forward, the most significant for the VEGA project life and it is anticipated to stimulate a high level of research at PDR in the remaining 2 years project period. Already in the first year but also for the second year is planned that PhD and advanced Postdoc from prestigious European research centres to be hosted at PDR within VEGA framework in order to carry out joint research (Christoph Runde and Frank Dekker from Fraunhofer IPA Stuttgart spent each 2 months within the PDR VEGA team, other being planned for the remaining two years, involving researchers from Fraunhofer but also from Politechnica di Bari and Delft University of Technology).

All developments presented above have been done in just one year – the first year of project VEGA and represent an enormous advancement and radical transformation of the research at the Product Design and Robotics of Transilvania University of Brasov.

1.3.3. Establishment of the VEGA partnership and the International Workshop on VR (WP1)

As showed earlier, VEGA project includes three main goals: Infrastructure, Mobility and strategic partnership.  To reach the first goal, few partners have been associated (Fraunhofer IPA Stuttgart and Siemens). However, in order to reach the other two objectives, a large number of partners have been envisaged to be associated for the project activities. Some of the partners have been contacted before the project proposal stage, others have been visited by the PDR staff in order to explore the possibilities for cooperation and others have been invited by the project coordinator to visit PDR department in order to explore the future cooperation possibilities.
The VEGA exploratory visits are presented in the table 1.2:

Table 1.2. VEGA exploratory visits

Nr.
Crt.

Grantholders

Destination

Period

Subject and Result

1

Doru Talaba (UTBv)

Universidad Politechnica de Cartagena

23-26/10/05,
23/10-06/11/05

PhD co-supervision scheme on “Virtual grasping in Robotics”, PhD Alexandru Itu

2

Ionel Staretu (UTBv)

3

Gheorghe Mogan (UTBv)

Ecole d’ingenieurs Belfort, France

15-22/01/06

PhD co-supervision scheme on Virtual Reality in Automotive Engineering, PhD to recruit in Oct 2006

4

Anghel Chiru (UTBv)

5

Aurel Jula (UTBv)

INTUITION meeting Senlis, France

23-27/11/05

Participation at INTUITION meeting. Discussion of the ASI scheme, duration and structure

6

Doru Talaba (UTBv)

7

Gheorghe Mogan (UTBv)

8

Paul Borza (Siemens)

9

Doru Talaba (UTBv)

Universidade da Coruna, Spain

12-16/03/06

Joint project on “Real Time multi-body simulation for Virtual Testing applications”. A Student research and afterwards PhD to recruit in Oct 2006

10

Csaba Antonya (UTBv)

11

Sebastian Sisca (UTBv)

Fraunhofer IPA Stuttgart

30/11-07/12/05

Experience exchange on “Hardware-in-the-loop”  testing techmologies

12

Andreea Beraru UTBv

INRIA, Grenoble, France

16-21/12/05

Experience exchange on Co-located Virtual representations: 3D visual and haptic using Holobench and SPIDAR

13

Doru Talaba (UTBv)

ICCS Athens (The FP6-NoE INTUITION coordinators)

25-27/05/06

Establishing of the place of ASI, Co-Directors and preliminary list of lecturers

After successful completion of these objectives, the 2nd year was devoted to the HUMAN RESOURCES.
For the third reporting period, the major goal of VEGA project was the preparation of the strategic partnership and full integration of the Robotics and Virtual Reality research lab into the ERA, while continuing the activities of human resource development (hiring and training of researchers). Another major goal of the third project year was to secure the self sustainability of the centre at the same level after the project VEGA completion in the absence of funding from the European Commission.
Of course, out of these technical WP’s, activities took place also for Dissemination (WP6) and Management (WP7) and some maintenance work at WP1 – “Hiring of new researchers” formally closed at the end of the year 1. In what follows, the work performed in each case is presented in detail.