Factory visibility, employee training, and problem solving are the areas that benefit most from augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies for manufacturing, processing, and other industrial applications. These technologies can have a positive impact on the design, assembly and quality of products as well as work safety.
The result of using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies is the achievement of many key benefits as manufacturers gain insight into the technical condition of equipment, product models and other areas. The resulting increase in the efficiency of factory operations increases product quality and reduces time-to-market. These technologies use sensors, cameras, smart devices, wearables (wearables), and other Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) tools. Staff training becomes easier as workers, standing in front of machines, receive visual information based on practical experience, leading to improved product assembly and equipment maintenance processes.
For example, in aircraft assembly, AR displays an image of the components overlaid with rendered images of specifications, bolts, cables, parts, and part numbers. This makes it easier for technicians to assemble heavy machinery by simply following the displayed instructions. At a training facility by a aircraft manufacturer, AR has enabled technicians to increase their productivity by 30%.
Training programs using VR simulation help new employees learn how to perform complex processes when they are "immersed" in digital reality (the so-called immersion), which recreates an animated 3D replica of a physically existing factory and its individual workstations, machines. As a result of this method, higher employee retention rates were obtained compared to methods based on lectures and reading, especially for the new generation of employees, more used to using modern video technologies and the VR environment. One petrochemical company saved $ 2 million in logistics by using VR simulation to train helicopter pilots to land safely on an offshore oil rig. Moreover, employees of this company remembered 75% of the information provided in the training program.
AR and VR technologies: 7 benefits
AR and VR technologies can revolutionize training methods in the manufacturing industry. With companies in the industry predicting that they will lose 2.7 million skilled workers over the next decade due to their retirement, they must implement AR and VR to keep their factories running.
Manufacturers can implement AR / VR features in many factory floor operations, and specifically use them in the seven areas discussed below.
Improving product design
AR and VR technologies can facilitate the transition to individualized and customer-oriented production by accelerating the process of improving product design. Combined with digital twins and IIoT technologies, the functions of AR technology overlapping the digital world and the possibilities of VR simulation technology using visualization, acoustic effects and tactile sensations, enable product design engineers to generate, test and test virtual prototypes.
The automotive industry is currently investing heavily in AR and VR technologies to improve product design. 3D visualization software using VR technology helps OEMs to both reduce prototyping costs and improve the design analysis process and the feedback loop process. This, in turn, reduces product development time and speeds up product launch.
Implementation of complex assembly
In addition to aircraft assembly training, engineers can also improve customer-specific product development in smart factories using AR-based employee guidance systems. Such a system uses artificial intelligence and other sensing systems, along with high lumen industrial projectors and torque screwdrivers to ensure products are assembled the first time with essentially error free. In the aeronautics sector, smart goggles using augmented reality technology enable technicians to precisely assemble and install cabins on transport aircraft. The head-mounted device is equipped with a camera that can scan barcodes used by technicians to read information about the cabin elements. In addition, with this camera, technicians can see the layout of the structure with markings displayed as "extended" positions. The marking process allows the technician to confirm the location of the markings and verify that they are correctly positioned down to the millimeter.
AR technology plays an integral role in enabling the quality control of manufactured or assembled products. The automotive and aerospace industries have already started implementing AR goggles and tablets to control the quality of third-party parts and the correct placement of various components on the assembly line.
Interactive worker guidance systems used in component assembly are also used to ensure product quality. The AR tool combines industrial cameras with high-powered projectors to display the necessary information directly on the work surface. The resulting "digital canvas" allows technicians to verify and validate assembly sequences and production parts. Some OEM and Tier 1 automotive manufacturing companies (OEMs) that have adapted LGS (Light Guide System) in place of traditional work instructions have reported that there was a significant reduction in errors by 90% and a cycle time reduction of 40-50%.
Factory maintenance departments use AR displays to check machine health, helping them spot problems before taking action to fix them. In one application, an AR headset used a specific technology to provide the technician with line of sight instructions. This helped increase his efficiency in wiring the wind turbine control box by 34%.
A recent innovation in AR-based maintenance software further helps technicians to track the position of the overlay so that the content does not move as the user moves the tablet in different directions.
Support from experts
Remote assistance using AR and VR solutions can connect people from different parts of the world to solve problems together. For example, a technical problem in the USA can be solved by working with an engineer in China using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology and AR goggles with a microphone and headphones. This saves on travel costs and speeds up the problem solving process.
In addition, AR technology, providing visual and tactile sensations, can be used to remotely perform tasks with robots in an uninhabited environment. Such remote operation systems allow engineers to immerse themselves in the VR interface and then control the movements of the robots in work such as welding and assembly of parts.
Improvement of work safety
Remote monitoring of conditions in a dangerous environment is carried out using VR technology, and maintenance protocols are implemented using tablets supporting this technology. This allows engineers to safely implement safety standards. One leading hard coal company has implemented an AR system to plan the maintenance of its combines, conveyor belts and mining loaders. The system used simulated 3D images to virtually recreate mine conditions and scenarios such as underground rock collapse. Thanks to immersion, its users obtain information based on experiences and real situations from the past. This facilitates the improvement of work methods, health and safety conditions and compliance with safety standards.
In another case, an automotive OEM implemented virtual manufacturing technologies to design a safe and efficient work environment. Immersive VR technology was used along with 3D printing and the capture of whole body movements. This allowed for the reduction of accidents at work and injuries to people by 70% and reduced ergonomic problems by 90%.
Improving operations carried out in warehouses
Smart warehouses have revolutionized logistics and distribution practices
hence contributing to increasing the precision and speed of order fulfillment. They use AR technology to mark, code and manage goods more efficiently.
With the prices of necessary sensors for such sensor applications now below $ 10 apiece, and the ubiquity of mobile telephony extending the capabilities of IoT technology, the process of handling goods has become more systematic, allowing for precise picking from shelves and packaging. Reports suggest that warehouse workers using AR technology improved their picking accuracy by up to 300% and accelerated their operations by 30%.
The future of AR and VR technologies
Augmented and virtual reality are currently converging with the Internet of Things technology, creating the so-called mixed reality (MR), which aims to provide a more fluid and realistic experience in the future. R&D departments of companies in the industry are working on miniaturization of AR, VR and MR devices, creating power systems that allow for extended use of these devices before recharging the batteries, and increasing the flexibility of components to enable their use in various environments, such as in high or low temperatures or under water.
With 5G cellular networks to be rolled out over the next two years, organizations can soon expect a reduction in their mobile connectivity costs for mass deployment of AR and VR technologies. A VR experience device such as HMD (head mounted display), displaying a high-definition image with a 360-degree viewing angle, requires data streams of 80 to 100 Mbit / s, which means that for fast startup AR and VR applications require unprecedented amounts of data transferred over the network.
While devices alone are currently priced up to $ 3,000, an active ecosystem of innovation will ultimately help drive down the price of devices and technology, resulting in massive adoption in factories. Check out how VR technology by Mazer can change the future of manufacturing at https://mazerspace.com/2021/07/26/vr-in-manufacturing-how-virtual-reality-changes-the-production-of-tomorrow/