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Saab's vision to bring LEGO simplicity to advanced manufacturing

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WORK is underway on software that aims to use hologram technology and LEGO-inspired assembly to help manufacture some of the world’s most complex machines.

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The Australian arm of global defence and security company Saab has partnered with Microsoft to build a range of ground breaking training, education and other complex 3D Holographic applications.

Worn as goggles by users, the Microsoft HoloLens Platform is the first fully untethered, holographic computer, enabling interaction with high‑definition holograms.

Based in the South Australian capital Adelaide, Saab Australia is a defence, security and traffic management solutions provider specialising in computer-based command and control systems.

Saab Australia Head of Training and Simulation Inger Lawes said the company had identified three initial markets: its traditional defence and security market, the enterprise market – primarily large corporations wanting bespoke applications to address a specific need – and internal applications for the company’s own development.

“We want to stay within our business of defence and security but we also want to explore applied markets such as using HoloLens to support sophisticated manufacturing,” he said.

“Most design work these days is done on a computer and is called model-based design. What we want to do is support model-based assembly where the models that are designed on a computer are represented holographically.

Lawes said, as an internal test, the company would use a LEGO model of the company’s Gripen fighter jet as a starting point to prove the value of the technology to its assembly team in Sweden.

“We’re going to use model-based assembly software as the background but we’re going to use LEGO components,” he said.

“Everyone understands LEGO so it is a fantastic vehicle to demonstrate this sort of thing and get people as enthusiastic as we are and prove to them that you can build things in this environment and if we can build it with LEGO we can do it with everything else.”

Lawes said the company would initially focus on internal applications for HoloLens but would deliver something for its first external customer in September.

“We expect very quickly to be able to look at this technology to support any highly complex assembly or design work, it just happens that we are in that business ourselves so the logical thing is to start doing it internally,” he said.

Lawes said the way to think of HoloLens was as a self-contained high-end computer with standard features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB.

Holographic images are projected onto the goggles’ optical lens and appear in the field of vision about a metre from the user’s eye.

“Most of the really complicated things will rely on having some sort of server or access to a database and streaming it to the device rather than loading it up with a packaged application,” Lawes said.

“It just opens up an almost infinite number of possibilities to draw on information and have that information rendered as a model and just work with it.

“I’m extremely confident that this is going to be a significant business for us but it’s also a significant opportunity to create some work in South Australia.”

Lawes said the leading-edge technology would explore “uncharted waters”.

“The way we will chart that direction is people will come to us and say ‘we’ve got this idea and we’d like to use the technology in this particular way’ and we’ll have a discussion about that and more than likely, out of that will pop something quite spectacular,” he said.

“It’ll be the users by and large who come up with the ideas.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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