Smart manufacturing technologies are evolving at a rapid pace leaving those who ignore these new opportunities at risk of falling behind their more innovative competitors. Plant owners and managers are on constant lookout for ways to improve performance, increase efficiency, and reduce costs – all while not installing any new equipment.

Augmented reality (AR) technologies are derived from virtual reality but extend into the world of manufacturing. The global AR market is on the rise because it utilizes existing users’ environment and overlays virtual content over it. These applications are designed with 3D programs that enable developers to integrate digital content with the real world. Goldman Sachs estimates that AR has “the potential to become the next big computing platform…we expect new markets to be created and existing markets to be disrupted.” What does this mean if you are an auto manufacturer? It means there are 5 ways augmented reality can benefit you.

1. Factory Design

Those looking to create or expand a factory have much to benefit from AR. The planning stage can be costly and time consuming. Owners must plan to the last detail from the largest piece of equipment to the light switches. Augmented reality allows them to preview every detail in real time by giving them the ability to tour their proposed factories. Various architects, engineers, builders, and more can make contributions to these designs.

Instead of relying on old-fashioned blueprints and other 2D models, AR allows for a high level of collaboration by letting many designers contribute input, as well as express warnings should a mistake be recognized. Augmented reality also has many other benefits in the design stage, including the ability for owners to see how their manufacturing processes will work in the new plant.

2. Automation

Repetitive tasks are necessary in manufacturing, but it isn’t necessary to have humans perform them. The industry is becoming more aware of AR options that can program, monitor, and adjust industrial robots to perform many repetitive and complex tasks. Users can program robots to do a number of tasks from numerous points of view. In addition, some of these tasks can also be dangerous, which makes automation an even more favorable option.

Benefits include the ability for automation to run 24/7, reduction of risk to workers, generation of detailed data reports on accomplished and remaining tasks, and many others.

3. Automotive Assembly

A virtual automotive assembly goes beyond CAD to help engineers make critical decisions about design through detailed visualizations, thereby eliminating the need for an actual prototype. In addition, augmented reality can be used as a tool to identify and streamline potential bottlenecks in assembly and other ergonomic issues. This can all be done before any task has begun or assembly is finalized.

The benefits of AR in automotive assembly include the ability to actualize the assembly process from beginning to end, testing of designs, automated task analysis, and many others.

4. Training on AR

Augmented reality delivers an innovative way for workers to learn new manufacturing skills without risk to property or person. This hands on training allows workers to do everything from disassemble a complex engine to welding, all while the AR system records data including but not limited to time for assembly, weld quality, power used, etc.

The benefits of training on AR range from training new employees on current processes to allowing them to learn new skills to evaluating how safe they are working.

5. Vehicle Maintenance

AR offers unique benefits to vehicle maintenance applications. Maintenance for an entire production line can be planned and simulated well in advance of the set date. Personnel can be familiarized with new or existing equipment before the process. Virtual vehicle maintenance can even be done in virtual factories to measure its impact on operations as whole.

Other benefits include familiarizing personnel with maintenance tasks, enabling trial runs, and providing a unique perspective all while risk free to the plant.

FINAL THOUGHTS on Augmented Reality

Augmented reality isn’t just the way of the future, it is happening now at facilities across the nation. Some notable names using AR include Aerosim, Ford, John Hopkins University, Pratt & Whitney, and TOTAL. We’ll keep our eyes on the AR revolution so we can help you gain the upper hand on conventional methods.

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