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Fast, Flexible and Faultless Assembly: TNO


The nature of production is changing in manufacturing:

  • Flexible production: different specifications, products, timings, high mix, low volume
  • Faultless production: first-time right, ultimate control of quality and resources
  • Shorter time-to-market
  • Shorter lifecycle of products
  • Developments in technology are also happening fast: more digitalization and robotization on the work floor

With the flexibility that is demanded, people and robots/machines will continue to cooperate. Companies need to be able to deploy the defined process, training of the process, and the metrics of the process to wider target groups (experienced and inexperienced, young and old) quickly and flexibly.



In view of the rapidly changing nature of manufacturing, TNO, Bronkhorst High Tech, Omron and TE Connectivity have integrated an operator support system in a manual assembly workplace using LightGuide Systems AR projected work instructions as part of the TKI project Flexible Assembly Cell. This system helps companies to perform fast, flexible and faultless assembly of different products.

Results from this TKI project Flexible Assembly Cell will be used in the Flexible Manufacturing Fieldlab that is part of the Smart Industry Program Factory of the Future at Brainport Industries. Field labs are real-life environments in which knowledge and education institutions, production companies, developers, and suppliers jointly and specifically develop, test, implement and learn to use Smart Industry solutions.


"LightGuide easily connects to external systems, like (3D)Vision and cloud-based applications. Production data, such as assembly times and quality information, are written to a database for additional analyses. The system is useful for new and experienced operators when product variants and materials change frequently. The system has different levels to match the skill level of the employee."
TNO Research, Netherlands


TNO has integrated the LightGuide Augmented reality software into one operator support system in a flexible manual assembly workplace. This system, in which projected work instructions help an operator to perform assembly work, has been demonstrated and tested at Bronkhorst High Tech, Omron, and TE Connectivity. LightGuide projection enables the correct tray to be illuminated and the assembly instruction is projected onto the product or worktop. Operators quickly see which part has to be picked from which tray and how it must be assembled. Moreover, operators get direct feedback if a wrong part is taken. Navigation through the work instructions is intuitive and is automatically advanced using the software. Critical action can be confirmed manually with the aid of virtual buttons projected on the worktop. The system is easy to connect to external systems, such as (3D)Vision, cobots, PLC’s and MES. Production data, such as assembly times and quality information, are captured on every step and written to a database for additional analyses.


The system can be a useful ally in working with new employees, but it is also useful for experienced operators when product variants and materials more frequently switch and change. The system has different levels, depending on the skills level of the employee. The system can also be equipped with a data model and database for modular work instructions. This link means that work instructions for new assembly activities can be automatically generated from the data model and presented to the system. This can shorten the time needed to make new instructions and can improve version management.

  • 57% Reduction in Total Cycle Time
  • 70% Reduction in Pick Time
  • 25% Reduced Workload


TNO has performed measurements among the three companies to ascertain the effectiveness and efficiency of this system compared with digital work instructions via monitors. The effects on the workload of the employees were examined as were their experiences of the projection system. A total of 35 operators took part and the results of this study are very promising: Reduction of the total cycle time by 57%; Reduction of the pick time by more than 70%; No errors were recorded in picking components with the aid of LightGuide support (this error percentage for digital work instructions was 8.000 ppm); No errors were recorded in placing components with the aid of LightGuide instructions (this error percentage for digital work instructions was 80.000 ppm); Compared with screen instructions, projected work instructions reduced the workload for experienced operators by 25%.

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