Augmented reality is far from being just an intriguing concept that it used to be. It has now transitioned as one of the potent tools that are the drivers of innovation in the IR4.0 world. From fun and games, the concept of overlaying virtual elements onto the real world is finding its way to the manufacturing industry.

The sales of AR glasses have shot up, especially during the pandemic period, and are expected to reach 26 million by 2023.  In the manufacturing industry, AR is being constantly explored to provide solutions that improve the overall process and create a safe working environment for the workers at the site.

This article uncovers the future of AR and the challenges ahead for its implementation in the manufacturing industry.

AR in the Manufacturing Realm

The application of immersive technology like augmented reality in manufacturing opens up a gamut of benefits for the industry. Some of the prominent ways it proves to be beneficial are:

  • It helps in creating a smarter and more productive factory floor
  • It provides easy remote access to real-time data
  • It helps in minimizing design errors and improves time to product.
  • It aids manufacturing companies to provide effective training to their employees.
  • It helps in performing an effective and time-saving maintenance process.

There are many examples where AR has proved its merits for leading manufacturing companies. For example, Siemens ARAssist utilizes the power of AR in guiding the technicians to perform maintenance routines. The technician creates an overlay image of the gearbox through the AR lens, and the Siemens Assist AR walks through each step in completing the maintenance task with high accuracy.

Boeing, one of the global aviation manufacturers, also uses AR in creating a simple wiring process that is an integral part of each of their 787-8 Freighters. The company uses Google Lens and Software to amplify its manufacturing process. They could save up to 25% time in wiring production with a negligible error rate.

Even with some of the world’s leading companies adopting AR, the technology is still in its infancy. However, with more companies gearing up for digital transformation, AR is ready to disrupt the future of manufacturing in more ways than one.

3D augmented reality to create product designs

Accuracy and precision are the crucial factors that manufacturers cannot compromise. Even a slight deviation from the design specification may lead to product rebuilding that ultimately adds to the cost and increases the time to market.

With AR-powered 3D models, it is easy to spot manufacturing errors soon after drafting the product design. Any changes can thus be introduced such that the final product is created on time with near-zero errors.

Hands-free Product Assembly

Most companies still rely on PDF instruction manuals. However, with the implementation of AR, this will soon transcend into a hands-free experience. With modern assembly involving complex wiring and piercing of hundreds and thousands of components, a hands-free step-by-step guide via AR headset saves time and ensures accuracy.

Experiential Maintenance Operations 

Maintenance operations usually require technicians working in extreme working environments. Implementing AR through a tablet or AR headset means you can use digital images, content, overlay texts, and information about a particular task.

For example, pinpointing the AR device to a furnace can show its vital statistics like current temperature without any physical contact via measuring equipment. Incorporating AR into maintenance operations reduces guesswork and creates a faster and safer process.

Virtual Training and Remote Expert Support

A shift from over-the-shoulders training to remote and virtual training is possible with the implementation of AR. Also, with AR-enabled customer support, companies can provide remote expert support to their customers and resolve their issues with the product.

Leybold, a vacuum pump manufacturer, recently introduced AR backed maintenance app to enhance onsite customer support. It enables customers to explore the product without disassembling the vacuum pump.

Undoubtedly, AR shows promise in revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. However, the lack of skills and readiness to adopt the new-age technology still stand as hurdles in unlocking the true potential of AR. Another roadblock in using AR devices is the mixed working environments. In workplaces where technicians need to don safety gear like gloves, accessing AR may not be practical.

Challenges in implementing AR for manufacturing

Undoubtedly, AR shows promise in revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. However, the lack of skills and readiness to adopt the new-age technology still stand as hurdles in unlocking the true potential of AR. Another roadblock in using AR devices is the mixed working environments. In workplaces where technicians need to don safety gear like gloves, accessing AR may not be practical.

To sum it up,

The implementation of AR opens up a gamut of options for companies to improve their overall productivity. Even though researchers are still exploring the potential of AR, the future, right now, holds an optimistic picture for Augmented Reality in the Manufacturing space. 

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