Is Augmented Reality (AR) the Future of Manufacturing?
How Augmented Reality (AR) For Manufacturing is Changing the Future of the Industry
When you think of the term “augmented reality” you may imagine video games involving cute creatures and capturing them by spinning a ball around and flinging it at them. Augmented reality for manufacturing may seem like science fiction, but it’s quickly becoming reality.
Augmented reality for manufacturing, Image Source
The term “augmented reality”, or AR, refers to the merging of physical and virtual worlds (or computer-generated worlds). On video, a genuine image is taken, and that image is “augmented” with layers of digital information.
Some individuals mix up augmented reality with virtual reality. Virtual reality (VR) is a fully immersive experience that isolates the user from the outside world. Augmented reality (AR) superimposes a computer-generated (CGI) movie over a camera-captured video, creating the impression that the CGI objects are fixed in space.
As you use this mindset to think about augmented reality, you will be able to see more and more applications within the manufacturing industry, such as: training, guidance, and maintenance.
Applications of AR in Manufacturing
Augmented reality with maps, Image Source
In the manufacturing industry, this technology can be used to track a range of changes, spot dangerous working conditions, and even see a final product. Manufacturers can utilize it to display more than just digital letters, pictures, or material, such as text, statistics, and information pertinent to the worker’s current task.
In training, there is no longer any need to use physical parts or products to train employees on certain techniques or how to handle repairs or builds. Augmented reality can be used to efficiently, quickly, and affordably streamline the training and onboarding process of employees.
For guidance on building and producing, augmented reality can be utilized to overlay specific guidelines and parameters on builds while workers are working on products. The ability to have visual references superimposed on the work area can help ensure employees build the same equipment and products each and every time.
As one final example, augmented reality for manufacturing can be used to improve the maintenance process. Supervisors, managers, and production workers can be given visual data about temperatures, product quality, time clocks, etc. within their field of view to keep an eye on equipment, products, and machines that need to be maintained regularly to prevent any sort of production losses.
This list is, by no means, exhaustive of the possible applications of augmented reality for manufacturing. These are three main areas where augmented reality can serve the manufacturing industry best in the future, though.
The next question is: what are some solutions to implement augmented reality in manufacturing?
Augmented Reality (AR) Solutions for Manufacturing
Manufacturing facility, Image Source
The implementation of augmented reality for manufacturing is entirely dependent upon the manufacturing company. There are plenty of ways any manufacturing company can begin to prepare for and think through ways to implement augmented reality, though.
AR is dependent on being able to overlay information on top of the physical world. This means there will need to be a way for computer software to visually interpret information, determine what to do with that information, and then display appropriate information over the videos and images being interpreted.
So, manufacturing companies can begin to look at video capturing systems, sensors, and information display systems to form a better understanding of how they can use augmented reality in their own processes.
It is important to note that a lot of augmented reality use cases are taking advantage of smartphone and tablet technology. Everyone has one or the other and it is simple to incorporate a company tablet into everyday use. This is important to keep in mind as a simple, immediate solution, but many others exist and are in use in manufacturing!
AR Video Capturing Systems
Outdoor video capture system, Image Source
In order for augmented reality to work it has to be able to “see” the reality being augmented. So, no matter what kind of augmented reality solutions you try to incorporate you are going to need some form of video capture.
Much of the augmented reality being used will take place on designated systems, processes, and areas. Take advantage of this with video capture systems that can be permanently mounted and pointed in the desired direction. This makes it easier to look at a steady stream of information being gathered from sensors and then broadcast on a display.
When it comes to sensors, things get a little bit more complicated. There are a multitude of types of sensors — from temperature to location-based to spatial recognition — and all of them have a place in the manufacturing industry.
Sensor technology will be the bread-and-butter of augmented reality for manufacturing. Sensors can be used in logistics, safety, maintenance, production, research and development, quality control, etc. Having the right sensors for the right information you are wanting to gather and overlay on your information display is going to be huge.
One important note to remember is that the sensors do not need to be attached to either the video capture system or the information display systems. As long as these sensors can accurately feed information to your augmented reality software, then they can be placed anywhere, taking advantage of the ability to use native sensors on your current machines, equipment, etc. and repurpose them in the information display systems.
AR Information Display Systems
Man wearing augmented reality glasses, Image Source
The simplest, but most visible, aspect of augmented reality is going to be how you choose to display the information being presented. There are manufacturing companies using wall-mounted displays as a way to keep an eye on important safety data like machine temperature. However, there are ways to use handheld information displays systems to use augmented reality to offer directions to a specific area, piece of equipment, or department.
There is ever-evolving technology in wearable technology as well that takes advantage of augmented reality. Eyewear with augmented reality features is likely going to be the most hands-on technology in the near future. As long as all the information is displayed in a functional format is what matters the most.
Looking For More Info on AR, VR, and Industry Insights?
Whether you are ready to implement augmented reality solutions or just getting started researching the topic, we hope this article has given you some insight into its future. Please feel free to comment below, or send us a question if you want to hear more or offer your own advice.