How VR and AR will change the manufacturing sector

Augmented and virtual reality go hand in hand with the process of technology development. Both innovations rely on presenting digital content through an immersive environment and experience.

Both AR and VR are used in OSH training and general vocational training. It is also expected that these technologies will play a key role in the development of:

  • Internet of Things
  • Big Data
  • Machine vision systems
  • Analytics

Their impact will not bypass the industrial sector either. Adaptation of these tools will also improve the automation of production processes and increase the level of safety.

Why will VR and AR fundamentally change the manufacturing sector?

The number of AR and VR applications is really huge. In the construction industry, for example, employees can use augmented reality devices to measure the dimensions of individual components, identify hazardous working conditions, and even visualize the finished structure or product.

The same applies to the industrial and manufacturing sector. The beauty of augmented technology and virtual reality is that they allow digital information to be presented in the context of the activities being performed. They allow you to display text, statistics and any other information you need. By looking at a given element of the device, an employee will be able to see its current temperature and thus detect places that should not be touched with their bare hands.

Although this concept, as well as others, sounds like sci-fi movies, in fact, it is already happening now. The number of devices of the augmented reality is to reach 19.1 million units by 2021. In combination with VR devices, this number will reach even 59.2 million devices.

Imagine that employees know everything that happens in their environment. They know the locations of their colleagues so that they can communicate effectively. They know which machines are malfunctioning or which parts of the complex are not accessible.

VR and AR applications are not only a matter of interesting concepts and ideas. Let’s take a look at some concrete examples of how the current use of these technologies brings about excellent results in the manufacturing sector:

1. Ford Motor Co.

Although Ford itself is more than 115 years old, it certainly does not lag behind in terms of innovative solutions. The company has been using VR technology since 2000 to refine the design of its cars. As Elizabeth Baron, VR Technology Specialist at Ford, puts it:

We want to be able to see and experience our cars and projects before we actually start producing them.

Ford also uses VR to simulate road and weather conditions (such as snow and rain) in order to test the mechanics of vehicles from the perspective of certain external conditions. In this manner, the company manages to create safer vehicles.

2. Boeing

Building airplanes is not a simple thing – after all, the lives of hundreds of thousands of passengers are at stake; there is no room for error here. Brian Laughlin, a technologist working in Boeing, said:

Traditionally, technicians have to use the information presented in two dimensions on sheets of 6 metres in length. Then they create in their minds the image from which they work. By using VR, technicians know exactly where electric cables go. They can stroll around the aircraft and see the detailed layout of the installation and have immediate access to the instructions.

3. GRAINS

The ability to determine the status of a machine by simply looking at it can be very useful. However, AR can offer more than just error detection. This video from the GRAphics and INtelligent Systems Research Group from the Polytechnic University of Turin shows how augmented reality can be useful in the maintenance process.

4. CAQ AG Factory Systems

Metrology and quality assurance are very important in industry. This industry can also be improved by the AR, as shown in the video above. Other manufacturers have also begun to explore the possibilities that this technology can help in order to improve the QA process.

The Porsche production line in Leipzig tested such a solution. The employees of the production line could take pictures of the assembly elements by using a headset and then compare them with the template provided by the manufacturer. In this manner, any deviation from the standard can be easily detected and marked on the pictures taken.

AR and VR in the industry saves money

Creating products that must meet safety standards and strict specifications requires the use of prototypes, which must then be tested. The aforementioned Boeing company eliminated this need by creating virtual aircraft models on a full scale. Engineers can see every part of the machine design and combine them virtually before they start working in real life. In this manner, Boeing expects to reduce training time for each employee by 75%, saving millions of dollars.

Summary

“AR and VR in industry” is not just a marketing slogan. Practical application of the technology is real, and the possibilities are enormous. It’s definitely worth taking advantage of these solutions.

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