Augmenting a Manufacturers Reality

Augmenting a Manufacturers Reality

As digital transformation infuses itself into the manufacturing sector, augmented reality is proving to be one of the most promising technologies. It boasts the ability to heighten productivity and precision throughout the manufacturing process at a minimal cost. Smart products, like phones, tablets, and glasses, enable workers with a simple way to view and interact with the manufacturing floor from an entirely different perspective. 

In contrast to the highly popular virtual reality (VR), augmented reality adds to your vision of the real world, rather than completely replacing your vision with a virtual setting like in VR. Augmented reality takes a computer generated image and displays it over top of the real world, typically using a phone or smart glasses as the visual tool. 

One of the most simple, yet effective, examples of augmented reality is IKEA’s phone app. Users simply take a photo of a room in their house and the app measures the space and provides recommendations of how to furnish the room. The best part is you are able to place the various furniture suggestions in the photo of your room for a highly realistic preview of how it will look.

Like IKEA’s success in the consumer furniture sector, augmented reality has already seen many victories in the manufacturing sector.  

Augmented reality is an incredibly powerful tool in the prototyping stage. It can bring a product to life without the concern of expensive materials and physical iterations. BMW uses the technology to speed up its prototyping stage, and in some cases, by as much as 12 months. Using cyber physical systems, BMW is able to overlay 3D models on the vehicle body in order to cost effectively test a range of concepts and assembly processes. The technology enables a cheap, quick, and effective alternative to traditional prototyping. 

Smart products, like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, create opportunities for augmented reality in the assembly stage. Lockheed Martin is a great example of a company using this technology in the assembly of its Orion spacecraft. Wearing the HoloLens glasses, workers can see 3D overlays showing exactly how to assemble the hardware. Rather than interpreting text documents or 2D models, they are given much more accurate instructions, which are required for complex hardware manufacturing, such as spacecraft. 

Inventory picking is another area in manufacturing where augmented reality can really boost productivity. DHL is using smart glasses similar to the Lockheed Martin example above, but instead using them for tracking down inventory. The technology displays information, right before the workers eyes, on where the inventory is located and where it needs to be taken. The glasses free up individual’s hands enabling productivity boosts upwards of 15% when grabbing inventory. 

The use cases presented here represent a fraction of the potential for augmented reality in manufacturing. The productivity gains, cost savings, and added precision will only grow as the technology progresses with time.