The Next Wave of Haptic Simulators at AMMACHI Labs: The Bar Bending Simulator
The Bar Bending Simulator, probably the first of its kind in the world, is among the top line of premium haptic simulators developed by AMMACHI Labs at Amrita University for skill development in the construction trade. The simulator has been vetted for its functionality and efficacy in imparting human motor skills by Larsen and Toubro, the country’s leading construction company. L&T Construction now has two of these simulators installed and being used for training trades persons at their Construction Skills Training Institutes in North and South India. The company is also exploring the possibility of utilizing the simulator for conducting on-site testing of skill levels for recognition of prior learning (RPL).
The rugged simulator is designed to impart the cognitive and hands-on skills required by personnel training for the bar bending trade.It meets the large force feedback demands of bar bending, and delivers over a wide range of forces required to simulate the different diameters and material grades of steel bars. Its realistic simulations augmented with visual and audio instructions, comprehensive learning management system and skill learning analytics make it an ideal solution for skill training and assessment. The simulator harnesses the potential of cutting edge technologies to offer significant savings in training time and material use, and high quality standardized education, making it an excellent example of the benefit of utilizing ICT for technical vocational education and training (TVET).
The Simulator Development Journey
The Bar Bending Simulator idea witnessed its inception in the rising demand for skilled bar bending workforce expressed by the construction industry. Even for a construction giant like Larsen and Toubro that has dedicated Construction Skills Training Institutes across the country, their site requirement for bar bending personnel has been increasing challenging to meet, owing to the steep growth in construction projects tended to by them in India and South east Asia. The skilled workforce segment suffers large attrition rates, contributed by migration to the Middle East by trained youth falling out to the lure of the crown jewel of the construction world. This motivated the use of technological solutions that could offer cost, time and resource savings in the training process.
Our story with the bar bending simulator is a journey of dedicated effort and benevolent grace. At AMMACHI Labs, we have been working on designing and developing simulators since 2009. The first project on using ICT for vocational education was born from the vision shared with us by our Chancellor and humanitarian, Amma. If simulators could be developed for training surgeons to cut bone, why can it not be retrofit to train carpenters who use the same tools with a slightly different skill set? This was the striking observation that motivated us on our journey.
Since 2009, our team has grown to accommodate not just mechanical, electrical and computer science engineers but also data scientists, social workers multimedia artists, videographers, instructional and interaction designers. This diversity has uniquely positioned us to design to the needs of the target audience and reach out to the underserved populations in rural and tribal communities.
The Bar bending simulator project work took us from data collection to quantify expert skill at Larsen and Toubro at Kanchipuram to designing multiple prototypes at the Amrita University campus at Kollam, first out of wood and 3D printed parts and later using metal, to finally the manufacturing hub in Coimbatore for the product development cycle.
Months of work in creating test beds to measure and quantify skilled performance by graduate students at Amrita University offered the baseline data required to design the simulator. The primary design was reviewed, prototyped, modified and reviewed design changes again, by AMMACHI Labs researchers and volunteers from backgrounds as diverse as flight maintenance to experts in multi dynamics and of course bar bending. It was sheer grace that brought together such a diverse audience to offer their services to this project.
The project culminated in deploying the simulators at the Construction Skills training institutes in two states of India where batches of 30 to 40 trainees are inducted for the bar bending training using these simulators every month. The simulator offers a robust learning management system that keeps historical records of individual and batch performance, expert to novice comparisons in skills, and graphical reports of improvement areas for the individual.
The management and staff at the Construction Skills Training Institute at Pilkuwa were so impressed with the simulator that, the Principal Mr. Kamaljit Singh Mehrok said, “ AMMACHI Labs is creating a revolution in the skill development area with such simulators for construction training”.
The simulator has turned over a new page in the training programs offered by AMMACHI Labs that spans across several disciplines, harnessing the best of what technology has to offer for humanitarian good. AMMACHI Labs will continue to plough though such wicked problems that need weeding, with the help of its numerous dedicated hands, inspired minds and compassionate hearts.
DEVELOPER CREDITS FOR THE BAR BENDING SIMULATOR
- Idea Conceptualization– Rao R. Bhavani, Sankar Srinivasan, Akshay Nagarajan, Prabodh Sangiorgio, Unnikrishnan Radhakrishnan
- Mechanical design and manufacturing– Anirudh Muraleedharan, PrabodhSangiorgio, Harish T. Mohan, Vishnu Rajendran, Shanker Ramesh, Mohanrengan E., Akshay Nagarajan
- Electronics design- Deepu DS, Nidhin Sugunan, Ayyappan A., Sankar Srinivasan
- Communication interface- Gayathri Manikutty, Vishnu Pratap, Balu M. Menon
- Software design and implementation- Balu M Menon, Unnikrishnan Radhakrishnan, Vishnu Pratap, Mahima M. Menon
- LMS and Analytics- Aswathi P., Namitha K.
- UI and UX design- Balu M. Menon, Unnikrishnan Radhakrishnan, Sooraj Babu, Sooraj Krishna, NishokSarvareddy
- Multimedia and Graphics- Syamlal R., LatheeshSivadas, Aghila A.,Reshmi V., Manu TM, Renjith P., Sooraj MS, Santoshkumar
- Documentation- Anila Suresh, Sooraj Krishna, Sooraj Babu
- Product Managers- Akshay Nagarajan, Ranjith P.M.
- Project Managers- Arunkumar (OMNEX India), Gayathri Manikutty, Sankar Srinivasan
- Experts, Reviewers and Volunteers- Vilasini Jamie Otelsberg, Prof. Delmar Marshal, Prof. Alexander Muir, Rahul ES, Jose James, Jietendra, Martin Meo
- Acknowledgements- Larsen and Toubro Constructions Skills Training Institute at Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) and Pilkuwa (Uttar Pradesh) And to Mr. PM Saravanan of Larsen and Toubro Construction for having faith in our abilities, and for his guidance and assistance during this project
About the Author
Akshay Nagarajan is the Technical lead – Mechanical Design and Manufacturing at AMMACHI Labs. Akshay has a background in Robotics and Haptics and has been working with AMMACHI Labs since its inception in 2009, developing Haptic Simulators and Robotic Applications for humanitarian purposes. He has worked with leading robotics labs at Stanford University and University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, extending collaboration for AMMACHI Labs with these centers. He was the Product Manager for the latest version of the bar bending simulator.
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