LayupRite

Composites are a growing global market where the UK has considerable expertise. However training remains limited and there is a shortage of people with the technical expertise to work with materials in the sector. It is, in particular hard for SMEs to address this and make the most of the business opportunities that are on the horizon. 

National Composites Centre (NCC), applied to Ufi’s Manufacturing Skills Fund in 2016 with an idea for how digital technology can be deployed to help tackle this problem. The NCC was well placed to do this, bringing together dynamic companies and enterprising academics to develop new technologies for the design and rapid manufacture of high-quality composite products.  

LayupRite, is a set of training and assessment resources using augmented reality to train people in the hand layup of composite materials. The augmented reality technology creates a projected overlay on moulds that clarifies the ‘laying up’ sequence for the composite materials. Learners are guided through the steps and precise hand movements required to accurately and effectively layer the materials into various moulds. 

The training is empirical and allows students to learn and correct from mistakes made. The aim is to be able to demonstrate how this process of learning is cost effective and efficient for both the learner and the employer. The process not only reduces time to competence, but also tackles waste byimparting best practice manual layup techniques to reduce overall scrap rates and therefore costs on a long term basis.  

The project is currently undertaking user trials with further education colleges and SMEs to provide a better understanding of how the equipment works and the effectiveness of learning design. This will inform iterative improvements to the system and inform broader thinking around effective learning design using AR. 

The potential impact and benefit of this new approach to teaching the skill of ‘laying up’ composite materials has already been recognised by major companies in the UK and overseas. The team have been demonstrating the product to major UK manufacturers, and their supply chains, and was recently nominated for the ‘Combined Strength’ Award at a major US composites and advanced materials expo, CAMX.  

We liked this project because it is innovative in that it aims to tackle the digitisation of training in a highly skilled manual process. Training in ‘craft’ skills have traditionally been learnt by observation of existing practices. This project will help demonstrate how such training could be successfully digitised using AR and adapted to other areas requiring high dexterity skills.