Augmented Reality (AR) is no longer a science-fiction today. It is real, and manufacturers are betting big on this technology to unlock better productivity at the factory floor.
Talk about Augmented Reality and you will immediately think of Pokémon GO. But this is not the case with manufacturers. The immersive technology is actually seen as an important tool that lets manufacturing firms to redefine critical processes and tap the productivity potential out of them. Although AR is still at a nascent stage, leading manufacturing companies are already applying it at different levels and are witnessing tremendous benefits across multiple production stages. Here’s a list of 5 coolest applications of AR in the manufacturing space that’s worth giving a look-
1. Design – Thyssenkrupp
[Image Source: Microsoft]
Thyssenkrupp recently started using Microsoft HoloLens – a fully self-contained, holographic computer that enables interacting with high-definition holograms overlaid in real world, for designing bespoke home mobility solutions. The process that involved a complex system of label and camera along with tedious manual data-entry for developing a custom stair lift solution is now transformed to digital, reducing the delivery time manifold. The salesperson now measures the staircase through HoloLens and the measured 3D point cloud data is then sent to manufacturing team automatically. The company is now able to make quick decisions and near real-time design approval for manufacturing. At the same time, the technology is allowing the sales person to provide the customer with a visualization of how the new stair lift will look like and function in their home. This Augmented Reality application is bringing Thyssenkrupp incredible amount of productivity and satisfaction for customers.
2. Assembly – Boeing
The world’s leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners – Boeing, is utilizing AR technology to ease their complex task of wiring that goes into every new 787-8 Freighter. The company is using Google Glass and Skylight software platform from Upskill to amplify the wiring process.
Traditionally, Boeing technicians used charts and laptops to do their work which had a basic problem. The workers had to look away constantly to refer to the diagrams to get assembly instructions. With the AR solution, however, technicians get instructions right when needed without looking away through Google Glass touchpad, voice commands and the head tracking interface. While voice commands enable freeing up both the hands of the technician, barcode readers and Google Glass cameras help in identifying and confirming the wiring inventory. Whenever in need, technicians have the provision to look how-to videos for more clarity on the assembly process right in their field view. Implementing AR solution has enabled Boeing to save 25% time in wiring production and reduced the error rates to virtually zero.
3.Personnel Training – Range Rover
[Image Source: RE’FLECT]
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) partnered with Bosch and RE’FLECT to design an AR integrated training app for employees. The objective of the app is to train new technicians without removing and reinstalling the vehicle dashboard.
With the newly designed app, the mechanic simply has to point the iPad at the dashboard to see everything that is hidden behind the paneling. From sensors, wirings, and connections, the mechanic can easily determine their exact locations and also interact with each individual component. The app generates connection and wiring diagrams, allowing the instructors to perform the training exercises on the actual vehicle without the need to spend time in dismantling and re-assembling. The visual knowledge transfer is helping JLR to train new employees quickly while keeping the training costs to a minimum.
4.Quality Control – Porsche
For Porsche, the factory of future is already a reality, and you can see that through their upgraded factories at Leipzig and Zuffenhausen. The company calls it as “Porsche Production 4.0”, which signifies their commitment to continuous improvement using new technologies and methods.
Apart from using robots for repetitive tasks, Porsche is applying augmented reality to take quality control to the next level. At the company’s quality center, experiments are conducted with Augmented Reality to figure out if the technology can be used to obtain precise design information about components quickly. Using an AR tool that can work within tablets, engineers can instantly gauge the dimensional accuracy, surface finish, tolerances and interference and other potential issues. The app also provides the functionality to test the functional aspects of components such as power windows and lights.
5. Maintenance – Caterpillar
Caterpillar successfully completed a pilot project that involved using AR for machine maintenance tasks. The company has developed its own AR app that assists technicians in performing service and maintenance checks. The hardware independent app can be used on a phone, tablet or AR glasses. It essentially provides sequential instructions to technicians to perform maintenance tasks on CAT machines. While performing the tasks, it is also possible to take it is also possible to take pictures of each step. The app further informs the technician how correctly the steps are performed. This helps novice mechanics to learn the maintenance procedures faster and avoid the possibility of errors. Caterpillar is currently looking to take this proof of concept and apply it in real world in coming months.
Apart from these five applications, Augmented Reality is being applied to various manufacturing environments to find out how the technology can aid in meeting the productivity goals. As the hardware and software for AR improve, this embryonic technology will gain more potential to disrupt the traditional industrial environment eventually.
Have another cool manufacturing AR application to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
About the author
Kashyap Vyas is an Engineer at Hi-Tech CADD Services and holds a Master’s degree in Thermal Engineering with several research papers to his credit. He covers CAD and CAE topics for the engineering industry. His contributions are primarily focused on encouraging manufacturers and suppliers to adopt virtual product development tools to build efficient products with reduced time-to-market.