Augmented Reality Solutions for Manufacturing
AR technology can help manufacturers identify and address equipment issues that might cause downtime or product quality problems. It can also help reduce repair costs and improve equipment performance.
In addition, augmented reality solutions can be used to deliver real-time work guidance to workers on the floor, eliminating the need for PDFs or handwritten notes. This can be done from a handheld device or a headset.
Augmented reality solutions for manufacturing provide real-time information that can streamline multiple processes. They allow businesses to monitor equipment, view machine statuses, and even use a digital model for visual inspection to help with assembly or line changeovers. In addition, AR allows businesses to make key personnel accessible without requiring them to be physically present on the shop floor. In this way, teams can easily identify and resolve issues without obstructing production.
With augmented reality, companies can simplify complicated technical training for new workers and upskill experienced employees. Aside from reducing the learning curve, this solution delivers work instructions in real time at the point of need and reduces search times to find relevant content. It also helps to build quality into processes by removing the need for printed or handwritten work instructions.
Aside from simplifying training, AR solutions for manufacturing can reduce maintenance times by allowing service technicians to quickly view and address issues without obstructing the production process. For example, ThyssenKrupp developed an AR application that helps service technicians quickly locate and identify problems with elevators.
Projection-based AR uses projectors to display 3D imagery or digital content over a physical object, surface or area. This is different than superimposition-based AR, which overlays digital content onto the user’s natural field of vision through a headset. In addition to enabling faster, more accurate work, projection-based AR offers the benefit of being able to add audio cues, animations and video to augment the existing space, further reducing the amount of text required for digital work instructions.
Many manufacturing companies face issues with scheduling equipment maintenance. This is because downtime can lead to inefficiency, disrupt production and ultimately affect productivity. However, with augmented reality solutions, business leaders can speed up the repair process and minimize scheduled downtime.
AR enables manufacturers to visualize and interact with equipment. This helps in diagnosing the problem, thereby enabling quick and accurate repairs. Moreover, it also facilitates the creation of a more structured and efficient work environment, helping to eliminate wasted processes.
For example, a technician with an AR headset like Microsoft HoloLens can access real-time information about equipment performance and even view tendencies in operation. These data-driven insights help the engineer to optimize the whole system faster.
Augmented reality can also be used to simplify assembly procedures and reduce human error. For instance, augmented reality solutions for manufacturing LightGuide AR software is used in aerospace and defense to ensure quality, standardize and digitize work instructions for each task. This enables technicians to see the step instructions right where they need them and confirm that each step is completed correctly. It also limits the number of parts that can be passed along until they are complete, improving process flow and reducing errors.
Another common use case is leveraging AR for employee training. For instance, Thyssenkrupp uses the Microsoft HoloLens to train warehouse workers to find products in a complex industrial setting. This solution has reduced the time employees augmented reality solutions for manufacturing spend searching for items and helped improve their order picking performance by 25%.
Visual inspection is a crucial part of many manufacturing processes. The goal is to spot flaws in product components or production machinery as early as possible so that they can be repaired without causing costly delays in the overall workflow. It is often conducted onsite in hazardous areas or confined spaces like storage tanks to ensure workers’ safety.
Augmented reality makes it easier to perform visual inspections, allowing for more consistent results. Using headsets that don’t obstruct movement, AR solutions can display work instructions in real time as the worker needs them. This helps reduce learning curves for new employees, eliminates the need to go searching for relevant content, and decreases error rates.
With AR, workers can also easily collaborate with colleagues remotely when troubleshooting issues. One user can focus the camera on the problem area and communicate with the other through a video feed to collaborate on how to resolve it. This helps to minimize downtime, streamlines support requests, and enables businesses to achieve faster and more efficient production.
AR solutions in manufacturing can aid a variety of critical business processes. These include employee training and upskilling, quality control and maintenance, logistics and warehouse management, as well as customer support.
When used with headsets that do not obstruct movement, AR allows workers to see work instructions and cues in real-time at the point of need. This minimizes the learning curve for new operators and reduces error rates by eliminating the need to search for relevant content.
Additionally, it helps experienced operators perform more quickly and accurately. While it is important to keep in mind that augmented reality can disrupt a high-performing operator’s rhythm and workflow, this is usually solvable by allowing the worker to opt-out of the solution for the specific task at hand.
The ability to visualize equipment and machinery in a 3D environment also promotes faster analysis, problem detection, and decision making in the field. One company using this technology is Rockwell Automation, which uses it to provide detailed information on motors, drives, and connection devices to its customers.
The flexibility of augmented reality solutions also enables manufacturers to bring in temporary workers when necessary. This eliminates the need to ask employees to work overtime or to cross their fingers and hope that the extra shift will be productive enough. In addition, it gives manufacturers the option to hire contractors for maintenance and repair tasks instead of relying on internal employees or paying overtime.