Augmented Reality Solutions for Manufacturing
In manufacturing, AR solutions collapse the learning curve for new workers, deliver work instruction at the point of need with headsets that don’t obstruct movement, and reduce search times for relevant content. This helps build quality into the process and avoids a costly mistake with irreversible consequences.
Augmented reality is already well-known in retail. It’s the technology behind apps like Wayfair and Houzz that let consumers view furniture in their home environments.
Augmented reality provides a number of opportunities to address training needs in the manufacturing sector. For example, new employees can be trained on the operation of expensive and potentially dangerous equipment without risking damage or downtime through AR solutions that allow them to interact with 3D models and holograms of equipment or virtual representations of workflows in a realistic simulation. They can also receive instant feedback in the form of visual or audio prompts if they fail to follow instructions correctly or take too long on a task, which is a great way to boost workforce productivity and prevent costly mistakes.
In addition, industrial AR can be used to support the skills gap with dynamic step-by-step work instructions that are displayed on a worker’s field of view as they complete a task. These digital instructions can be used to speed up the assembly process and increase quality. Additionally, this type of AR can provide a virtual safety check by overlaying maintenance and asset status information to reduce downtime.
In the event that a repair or upgrade is needed, AR can enable remote assistance from an expert over a video call or even through a headset-equipped mobile device. This allows an expert to help a local engineer or technician in real time without having to travel to the location, which can be especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic when travel restrictions made it difficult for experts to get to their customers’ sites.
Manufacturers can use AR to make the product design process much faster and more accurate. It superimposes virtual elements constructed from CAD data onto views of real objects displayed augmented reality solutions for manufacturing on mobile devices, desktop computers, smart glasses, and headsets. It allows for quick feedback between the designer and the concerned teams, resulting in a more efficient production cycle.
In addition, industrial AR helps companies to map standardized processes to improve operational efficiency. For instance, work instructions appear directly in employees’ field of vision, eliminating the need for them to look at a paper routing slip or a screen on a computer. It also reduces the likelihood of human errors and provides a more comfortable working environment for workers.
Moreover, manufacturing companies can use AR to reduce maintenance time and costs. For example, a technician can ask for remote assistance from an expert to complete a maintenance task quickly. This enables them to reduce downtime and increase customer satisfaction, while simultaneously saving money.
In a similar vein, Thyssenkrupp is using AR to design home mobility solutions for physically challenged people. This allows the company to avoid a lengthy, labor-intensive process that involves physical prototypes and multiple rounds of discussion and revisions between all stakeholders. Instead, they can send the design to a wearable device or smartphone and view it in real-time for instant feedback from engineers and customers.
AR applications help reduce maintenance times for equipment and machinery, and they can even allow remote assistance with troubleshooting. This can significantly cut costs while providing a more efficient service and avoiding costly mistakes that lead to product recalls and production delays.
Using an app, an employee can access instructions and data about equipment or hardware from their tablet or smartphone. The app may use marker-based scanning or simply detect and identify the issue, which will then display a visualization of the problem or a step-by-step guide to fixing it. This solution can also enable a collaborative approach to maintenance, as users from different departments or locations can communicate with each other about the best ways to address issues.
Augmented reality also helps manufacturers evade potential threats before they occur. For instance, using a virtual reality headset or camera, workers can simulate the process of walking on a 15-story construction site without scaffolding. They can practice the task and learn to do it safely before augmented reality solutions for manufacturing attempting it in real life. This significantly cuts down on safety risks and training time.
In addition to these specialized use cases, the technology can help with logistics and warehouse management. For example, when employees are looking for specific parts or tools in a large industrial warehouse, they can use an AR application to get instructions about their exact location on the floor. This can help them avoid searching for hours or wasting time trying to find items in a crowded storage room.
In the manufacturing industry, a significant amount of inspection is required. Traditionally, these inspections are based on simple checklists or detailed drawings that require time and effort to compile. With AR, these types of inspections can be significantly enhanced. For example, an augmented reality solution from FARO called Visual Inspect AR allows CAD models to be accurately overlaid on a video image. This enables a direct comparison of the actual component with the plan or CAD data, making it easy to recognize discrepancies immediately.
Industrial augmented reality can also help companies meet quality requirements by providing workers with information they need to make the right decisions quickly. This can include accessing automated process data as well as manually collected data sets. It can also be used to provide real-time feedback to employees in a safe and immersive environment, making them more aware of the state of equipment and processes, and improving decision-making.
Mobile AR solutions can ease quality inspections by allowing workers to access the data they need while still keeping their hands free. In this way, warehouse operational efficiency can be increased, resulting in reduced supply chain lead times. In addition, augmented reality can support remote troubleshooting, reducing the need to travel to the location of the problem. A great example is the Siemens application AssistAR, which guides technicians through tasks such as maintaining a gearbox.