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By Elian Zimmermann
03 April 2023

Augmented Reality in the Manufacturing Industry

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Augmented Reality has been around since the 1960s, and has since transformed the technology landscape, opening up new possibilities for innovation and creativity in various fields. It has changed the way people interact with digital content, created new business opportunities in industries like fashion, and has enhanced education. Most notably, AR has made incredible advancements in the medical field by enabling doctors to use AR to perform surgeries and train medical students in a virtual environment.

People sometimes confuse AR with AI, where the two are actually completely different technologies, serving different purposes. Augmented Reality is used to enhance the user’s perception of the real world by overlaying digital content onto it, while AI is used to process data and make decisions by programming machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

Within the manufacturing industry, AR is becoming increasingly popular due to its ability to empower producers to innovate faster, increase efficiency, reduce costs and create better products for a more intelligent and connected world.

Let’s Take a Look at How Augmented Reality is Being Used in The Manufacturing Industry

 

Assembly and Maintenance

Technicians are using it to provide them with contextualised, real-time information and guidance during the assembly and maintenance of complex machinery. By using AR headsets or glasses, they can access information on the assembly process, view 3D models of components, and receive step-by-step instructions. This helps reduce errors, improve productivity and reduce downtime associated with machine maintenance operations.

For example, let’s say a technician needs to repair a broken part in a large industrial machine. With AR technology, the technician can use a mobile device or headset to overlay digital instructions and visual aids onto the real-world view of the machine. The Augmented Reality system can provide the technician with a 3D model of the machine and highlight the broken part, as well as provide step-by-step instructions for replacing the part. The AR system can also help the technician to ensure that they are using the correct tools and equipment for the repair, and can provide real-time feedback on the progress of the repair.

Quality Control

It enhances quality control processes by providing technicians with visual aids and real-time feedback. For example, AR can be used to inspect components for defects, and the system can identify and highlight any defects or issues, as in the example mentioned above. It also enables remote collaboration between technicians in different locations, and so increases the speed of quality checks.

Training and Safety

AR is being used to train employees on complex processes and procedures in a semi-virutal environment. The virtual training environment simulates real-world scenarios, allowing technicians to practice their skills and learn new procedures in a safe and controlled environment.

For instance, let’s consider a technician who needs to learn how to perform maintenance procedures on a large and complex piece of machinery. With Augmented Reality technology, the technician can use a headset or mobile device to access a virtual training environment that simulates the machinery, providing an immersive experience.

In the virtual environment, the technician can interact with the virtual machine, identify different components, and perform maintenance procedures, all while receiving real-time feedback and guidance from the AR system. The AR system can provide visual aids, highlight specific components, and provide step-by-step instructions, ensuring that the technician understands the procedures thoroughly. This can help to reduce the time and cost associated with training, while also improving the knowledge retention and skills of technicians.

Safety training can also be done efficiently with AR, by using immersive environments to walk employees through potential scenarios and providing real-time visual warnings or audio prompts if they don’t follow the correct safety protocol. Technicians are also able to visualise potential safety hazards before entering a hazardous area, helping to reduce accidents and injuries.

The future predictions of Augmented Reality in manufacturing are exciting. Things like wearable devices such as smart glasses will become more common, integration with other technologies like IoT and AI will be possible and enhanced collaboration between, for example, a technician at a remote location and an expert giving real-time guidance via AR. It’s definitely something to consider if you want to hop on the advanced digital transformation train…