Interview with Yann Mace, SUNI Manager, ENS Rennes
As a mechanical engineer and manager of SUNI, a technology platform for manufacturing process expertise in Brittany, Yann Mace works to share technological knowledge across this region of France by connecting education, research and the local industrial network.
Yann and his team take advantage of the HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset to set up educational content for SUNI students. This tool facilitates independent learning and offers a new way to attract young talent to careers in mechanical engineering.
What is the SUNI platform’s mission? What was the context that triggered the mixed reality project within SUNI?
“SUNI (the French abbreviation for Sciences Usine Numérique Innovation [Digital Innovation Science Factory]) is a platform that connects academia and industry. Our PFT label (Plate-Forme Technologique [Technology Platform]), granted to us by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, has two purposes: to transfer the results of research to the economy in order to create economic and social value; and to be both an innovator and educator.
To achieve the latter, we contacted the teams at Synergiz. We wanted to work on the use of augmented reality tools for training and the so-called training of the future. Since 2017, we have been collaborating with INSA Rennes, IUT Rennes and the University of Rennes 1 on a project called FABREAL and, as part of the 2017 Call for Expression of Interest, the DESIR project (Development of Innovative Higher Education in Rennes). We set up an education working group together to develop innovations with digital tools to teach design and manufacturing. In this context, the working group wanted to implement different concepts, particularly Cloud Manufacturing: to leverage these new digital technologies for distance learning and education.”
Why did you identify mixed reality as the solution?
“We targeted mixed reality as a technological building block with the HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides: a simple and user-friendly solution for creating educational content.
Industrial sectors are not always the most attractive, despite all the really interesting positions and jobs. There are applications and sectors where you get to perform different tasks every day, but we struggle to attract talent. Using these digital tools, we also want to make mechanical engineering more attractive.”
Concretely, how do you use HoloLens and Dynamics 365 Guides in academia? How has it changed practices?
“We use HoloLens 2 with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides to design and implement augmented reality capsules.
We have set up four-hour practical work sessions during which students must use HoloLens 2 twice for 10 to 15 minutes. They are usually divided into groups of four to six people. One student wears the headset and operates the machine on which they’re working. They simply follow the instructions that appear in their field of vision through HoloLens 2 and complete the procedure step by step. At the same time, the other students follow what that one student is doing in real time as the entire scene is replayed on a TV screen.
These tools are sources of motivation and foster a great group dynamic among young people, providing them with independent learning opportunities. The teacher therefore benefits from a certain degree of flexibility in terms of supervision and eliminates small basic training tasks, which can also be repetitive.”
“We see a real application for the use of HoloLens 2 in education. This will allow students to discover the equipment on their own. Students will be able to use HoloLens 2 before a course, learn technical vocabulary associated with a machine environment, after which they will be able to attend a practical work session and work more quickly on added-value topics. Teachers no longer have to give basic explanations and students learn on their own: it saves time for everyone.”
How do you see the future with these digital tools? How will they be used?
“It’s a necessary tool for the future. Today there are fewer and fewer hours of technical training. And we see a real application for the use of HoloLens 2 in education. This will allow students to discover the equipment on their own. Students will be able to use HoloLens 2 before a course, learn technical vocabulary associated with a machine environment, after which they will be able to attend a practical work session and work more quickly on added-value topics. Teachers no longer have to give basic explanations and students learn on their own: it saves time for everyone.
Another challenge is to provide informative rules, such as safety instructions. Training around twenty or even thirty people during the year is time-consuming. If a training course already exists and is available via HoloLens 2, new students will simply have to put on a headset, follow the instructions step by step and answer interactive quizzes. The advantage is that we have reports and feedback on the quality of our training via Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides.
We are convinced that uses will be developed, while at the same time we’re also aware that we will not ask students to work for four hours with HoloLens 2. We learn by doing. We are aware that we need to find the right flow for using these tools compared to teaching applications. However, we’re convinced that it’s a tool that will make us attractive to young people.”
What about the collaboration with Synergiz?
“We were also keen to work with a local partner. We are very pleased with the support provided by Synergiz. The assistance and advice we have received to be able to move forward on the matter has been incredible. The solution is also very user-friendly: once the computer installation was done, familiarising ourselves with it was a breeze.”
SUNI is a technology platform for manufacturing process expertise. SUNI is the product of the merger of ENS Rennes and the secondary schools Marcellin Berthelot in Questembert and Joliot Curie in Rennes. It is supported by the GeM research laboratory in Nantes. It facilitates access to Industry of the Future processes in Brittany.
SUNI carries out various actions, such as: event planning and consulting, continuous training, technical and scientific studies, and collaborative R&D projects. Do you have a question about manufacturing? We’re here to help.