Taking the Stress Out of Machine Operation

There’s a lot to think about when operating construction equipment.

Meeting productivity targets, operating safely, and working in the most fuel-efficient way are all priorities. And with the limited capacity of the human mind, it’s often people themselves that set the limitations of a machine.

Volvo Construction Equipment knows that operators are subject to high levels of stress when using machines. That’s why, by monitoring an operator’s vital functions and simulating the interaction between the operator and their working environment, Volvo CE engineers are looking to develop smart machines that are aware of the operator’s workload and can adapt accordingly.

By allowing the machine to take over as much as is possible (and appropriate), the operator can focus on the job at hand, which results in increased productivity, fuel efficiency and safety.

Reno Filla, a research engineer in Volvo CE’s emerging technologies team, recently conducted a study simulating the operability of wheel loaders.

Filla used computer simulation to mimic the interaction between operators and wheel loaders and then assessed machine operability – something that has not been done before.

By carrying out the testing at the concept development phase (as opposed to the usual process of building a prototype for operator testing and then collecting feedback), the cost of exploring new ideas is lower, the project is quicker and it’s easier to make changes to the machine.

Volvo CE is also measuring how the mental workload (stress) of the operator affects body signals like heart rate (pulse), heart variability (the change of heart rate), skin conductance level (perspiration on the hand), finger temperature and respiratory rate (breathing).

Volvo CE is working on future machine designs that will make the operator’s working environment less stressful. The machines of the future will adapt to the operator’s needs. For example, if the machine could determine that an operator was stressed and in need of help, it would assist him or her by taking over certain functions.

 




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