How Augmented Reality Can Benefit Manufacturing Companies

augmented reality manufacturing companies

How Augmented Reality Can Benefit Manufacturing Companies

Unlike virtual reality (VR), AR utilizes mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It enables people to see overlaid information on their surroundings and works well in environments where it is difficult to navigate or read printed instructions.

For example, an automotive manufacturer could provide technicians with detailed instructions on disassembling and repairing car engines. This would help them reduce downtime and improve quality.

1. Digital Twin Development

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical product or process. Using data from sensors, it can help you study the real-world behavior of an asset or process. This can lead to operational benefits such as reducing unplanned downtime, improving quality, or optimizing production. It can also drive strategic benefits when machine learning on actual-world data improves products, services, or business processes.

The digital reinvention underway in asset-intensive industries demands an integrated view of products and equipment, facilities, and work processes. A digital twin — a core Industry 4.0 technology — provides one augmented reality manufacturing companies conduit to make this connection and provide new, critical insights for cost reduction, efficiency improvement, and reliable business outcomes.

For example, the Volvo Group, a global manufacturer of trucks, construction equipment, and industrial engines, leveraged a digital twin to create an AR experience that streamlines inspections. Traditionally, their inspections involved paper checklists with 40 tests and about 200 possible QA variants that had to be completed within eight minutes at the QA station. This augmented reality solution was able to save them weeks of training and reduce unplanned downtime.

For manufacturers to benefit from these new immersive technologies, they must also deploy the appropriate IT network infrastructure. This requires a shift to more advanced bandwidth, latency, and performance requirements. It will also require the use of advanced processing, storage, and analytics solutions at the network edge to manage the data deluge from these technologies.

2. Virtual Inspection

Getting products from concept to the assembly line and to customers as quickly as possible is critical for manufacturing companies. This requires that engineers can develop new prototypes in short order while minimizing the number of errors and ensuring high-quality production. This is where AR and VR come in.

Using virtual inspection, workers can see a 3D representation of an element and inspect it inside and out, enabling them to catch errors during the design process and correct mistakes before they become costly issues later in production. The technology also helps with training and educating workers on complex machinery and equipment in a safe, experiential way.

In addition, augmented reality can also help to minimize downtime and eliminate machine breakdowns, which can be costly for businesses. During maintenance, the technology can be used to compare an existing site or asset with the original designs/BIM model, perform quick measurements, and document findings in real-time.

AR technology can even provide a remote support capability. The use of projector-based AR enables technicians to connect in a virtual space and provide live video, on-screen annotations, and artificial intelligence insights to troubleshoot or resolve work orders. This allows highly skilled technicians to focus on high-value customers, complex repairs, and supporting other employees in the field. This is an ideal solution for manufacturers to avoid the cost and disruption of sending field service staff out on site.

3. Automation

For manufacturing companies to be successful, they must have a workflow that minimizes downtime and ensures a consistent product. One of the best ways to do that is by automating routine tasks using AR.

The most advanced AR software solutions can detect the slightest motions in a work environment and track them for patterns that indicate inefficiencies. This information is aggregated to provide insights about how to optimize a process or equipment layout. For example, when a part with intricate designs comes down an assembly line, it’s important for workers to know where to lay the padding, glue, and wire harnesses. With digital work instructions in AR, these placements can be mapped out to match the exact design of the part so that errors are reduced and production efficiency is increased.

Augmented reality can also make it easier for new and existing employees to train on equipment and processes. These specialized apps can display three-dimensional models and holograms of equipment, along with real-time instructions that guide employees through the necessary steps to operate or service it. In this way, manufacturers can ensure a high-quality product without relying on costly onsite training.

Some manufacturers, such as Thyssenkrupp, have even integrated AR into their design processes so that directors can view a project in real-time and offer feedback to teams instantly. This can save significant time in the product design process and create a more collaborative and productive workspace.

4. Remote Maintenance

Aside from reducing downtime and increasing efficiency, industrial AR helps companies to provide better customer service and support. This is done by enabling technicians augmented reality manufacturing companies to connect remotely with an expert for visual assistance in an audiovisual, interactive environment. This can range from providing simple instructions to guiding workers through complex processes such as disassembling an engine.

Manufacturers can also use AR to improve safety in their factories. They can simulate dangerous scenarios to educate employees about safety protocols and display real-time reactions such as visual warnings or audio prompts when an employee is not following protocol. This can help to avoid accidents and reduce the need for costly repairs or downtime.

Another advantage of AR for manufacturing is allowing technicians to work independently with step-by-step digital instructions and guidance. For example, if an assembly worker is trying to install a new piece of equipment and it’s not fitting properly, they can get real-time feedback from an expert to resolve the problem. This can save time and ensure the quality of the product. It also allows manufacturers to save on labor costs by freeing up highly skilled technicians to focus on complex or risky tasks. In addition, they can quickly access operational documentation and resolve issues. This is known as remote maintenance. The technology works on mobile devices or smart glasses, enabling field technicians to self-guide with clear visual instructions for each work order.

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