How Augmented Reality (AR) is Transforming Manufacturing
Updated: Apr 16
What if we told you that the technology that goes into Pokémon Go is helping power the next industrial Revolution? No, we’re not talking about finding a “Magikarp” located on the production line but if you’re mind already started thinking about augmented reality (AR), you got it! In the last few years, as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or known as Industry 4.0), AR technology is making big changes in the manufacturing world and is helping businesses do more — from enchanting safety and providing real time guidance to front line workers, through collaborating on manufacturing projects while being physically miles away, to managing logistics and reducing errors to ensure sustainable operations.
© Scope Technologies US Inc.
Even with current training procedures in the manufacturing industry, injuries still occur due to mishandling of equipment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, manufacturing accounted for 15% of all workplace injuries in private industries, with more than 6out of every 100 workers reporting an incident in the automobile manufacturing industry. With this in mind, multiple companies have adopted AR technology to help with the training process on front line workers to reduce the risk of injury to employees, while saving companies’ time and money. For example, Scope AR has worked with Lockheed Martin’s space division, which has been building NASA’s Orion spacecraft, to help train technicians. The company’s AR tools provided an opportunity to reduce assembly errors on the components such as the spacecraft’s heat shield and the crew’s forward bay, while boosting productivity and reducing the overall time spent on training by 85%. In an industry where the margins of error are slim and the risks are high, AR provides Lockheed Martin’s engineers with tools to best succeed.
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© Dan Ronan/Transport Topics
DHL has also adopted AR technology in their package distribution operations. Already in 2016, DHL used AR smart glasses for “vision picking” to visually display to its warehouse workers in the Netherlands where each package needs to be placed on the trolley, while enabling hands free order picking and optimizing for internal logistics data. Since, DHL’s use of AR solutions has expanded globally. The application of AR by DHL provides a great example for other companies which might benefit from integrating cloud and data management tools in their AR solutions.
Realizing the opportunities in AR adoption, many AR-focused companies and startups have emerged focusing on integrating enterprise-level AR solutions in the industrial space, including:
UpSkill, which has worked with GE Aviation to minimize maintenance errors in the latter’s engine assembly lines in Cincinnati, Ohio, using wearable AR smart glasses and a proprietary torque wrench.
SkillReal, which markets its patented “PointAR” sensors’ based technology for highly precise AR solutions to manufacturing lines. Their AR technology allows workers to design and inspect assembly lines in 3D and has been integrated into the offerings of the industry giant Siemens for sale to global manufacturers.
Holoarch, which allows construction workers to inspect construction sites, compare blueprint plans, and visualize different layers using AR technology and their own customized AR helmet.
RE’FLEKT, which partners with Volvo Group to provide AR training solutions for automotive technical training.
© Google LLC
It’s also worth noting how much Google is investing in AR solutions for industrial use. While Google Glass wasn’t the consumer wearable revolution that everybody was dreaming of, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a big step for AR smart glasses and their application in a business setting. The Google Glass Enterprise Edition, aimed at manufactures and enterprise-level client, is Google’s response to the useful feedback provided by the users of the original Google Glass. It is used by major companies like AGCO, GE, TeamViewer, Neovia, and other large companies to empower their workforce with AR, improve work efficiency, and simplify manufacturing processes.
© Mercedes-Benz USA
Microsoft is another big player in the space and its HoloLens 2 AR headset has become the tool of choice for many enterprises looking for remote-assistance solutions. Just last summer, Mercedes-Benz USA trained more than 1,200 of its automotive technicians on how to use HoloLens 2 headset, while L’Oréal SA also began using Microsoft’s headset to help employees install and troubleshoot manufacturing equipment.
As supply chains and manufacturing operations move to become more automated and digitized, it is crucial for businesses to be aware of the many solutions out there to help them optimize their operations. We at echoAR are excited to see what AR technology will do next in the manufacturing industry. Our 3D-ready cloud platform helps companies build AR/VR apps and manage and deliver 3D content to devices everywhere. With our fully scalable infrastructure, companies can start building their AR/VR app backend and create the next impactful AR industrial solution. Join the echoAR community to learn more.
echoAR (http://www.echoAR.xyz; Techstars ’19) is a cloud platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that provides tools and server-side infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy AR/VR apps and experiences.