Augmented Reality (AR) in Manufacturing: What’s Coming?

Augmented Reality (AR) is already helping manufacturers in ways that no one anticipated.

Engineers unfamiliar with manufacturing medical equipment have suddenly found themselves tasked with producing hundreds of thousands of ventilators as fast as they possibly can.

“By using the power of Augmented Reality, we have reduced set-up lead times and developed a manufacturing approach that will help the UK Consortium scale up from 50-60 ventilators combined capacity per week to producing at least 1,500 units of the Penlon and Smiths models every seven days.” - Paul Himes, VP of Field Engineering at PTC [source].

These manufacturers need to produce a product with which their engineers have had no previous experience. They also have new social distancing guidelines that force them to find an alternative to face-to-face training. This situation has prompted some industry leaders to turn to AR glasses or headsets to accelerate training while maintaining compliance.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented Reality (AR) is when computer-generated information (text, video, or interactive 3D visuals) is overlaid onto the real-world environment through the use of mobile devices, special headsets, or glasses.

Engineers experienced with making ventilators capture assembly instructions with the wearable AR technology. Those instructions are then made available to engineers in training, so they can receive real-time, interactive training while wearing the AR glasses or headsets as they work.

Should a problem arise or the trainee has questions, they can initiate a video call with an experienced engineer to get help. While the experienced engineer is on the call, they will be able to see what the trainee sees, and can even make annotations on the screen for further assistance and visual guidance.

This is one of the many ways that AR can help manufacturers now and in the years to come. Let’s explore some of the other ways manufacturers are using AR technology to their advantage.

How Can We Expect AR to Impact Manufacturing?

Wearable AR technology accelerates training for new engineers, as well as experienced engineers who suddenly find themselves building something they’ve never had to make before — like Ford’s engineers manufacturing ventilators.

This is extremely useful in the current situation the world has found itself in, and also perfect for allowing retiring engineers to pass down their knowledge to the younger generation.

Capturing their knowledge this way ensures that it’s never lost and that future generations can continue learning from a solid foundation.

Another significant benefit of AR technology is that it can help engineers diagnose and solve problems with factory equipment.

An engineer equipped with an AR headset can view instructions and images while examining the machine and its parts. This speeds up the diagnostic process and gets the machines up and running again much faster. The video call capability is useful in this situation as well.

It increases the engineer’s safety with warnings that pop up when the engineer needs to proceed with caution.

Location markers guide engineers through each step by telling them where to go next.

What’s Coming for Manufacturing AR?

Thanks to COVID-19, more companies will adopt AR technology as a way to keep their workers safe and prevent forced shutdowns should the virus hit their workforce.

Video calling capabilities in the AR headsets are perfect for reducing face-to-face interactions between coworkers, as well as communicating with vendors or consultants that are off-site.

Eliminating the need for a trainer to observe a trainee physically helps manufacturers to stagger their workforce to reduce the number of workers on-site at one time.

AR shortens the length of time it takes to teach trainees and boosts production times to help manufacturers quickly produce medical supplies to meet the increasing demands.

“I honestly cannot express how helpful, time-saving, and fun AR goggles are to use. For something we are used to doing in at least a week’s time or 8-12 shifts, we were able to complete in one shift.” - Mary Lakaszcyck, Technician for ASRC Federal Data Solutions [source]

It's clear that AR is here to stay. Considering the numerous benefits AR brings to the manufacturing industry, the sooner you invest and implement it for your factory, the better.

Quick Recap

Augmented Reality (AR) is technology that allows computer-generated data to be overlaid onto the real-world environment through the use of special glasses, headsets, or mobile devices.

AR allows manufacturers to:

  • Accelerate training for new engineers. Trainees wearing AR glasses or headsets work with the assistance of assembly instructions that show up on the screen. AR video calling lets them contact a more experienced engineer for help when necessary.
  • Maintain social distancing by reducing the need for face-to-face interactions. 
  • Increase worker safety with warnings that remind workers when to proceed with caution.
  • Boost productivity by drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to assemble parts.
  • Pass down their knowledge and expertise to younger generations.

Stay Up-to-Date on Industry News

Changes in the industry are occurring rapidly, and you need to keep up if you don’t want your company to get left behind.

Manufacturers with AR technology already in use are at the forefront of the latest innovations taking place. This gives them a major advantage over their competitors who haven’t invested in AR technology yet.

Revenue in the AR market is forecasted to hit $70-$75 billion by 2023, so it’s something you need to consider investing in to stay ahead of the competition.

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