Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual and Augmented Reality for Manufacturing – An Enabler for Industry 4.0

Revolutionizing complex product development and making the factory of the future a reality for today’s manufacturers

How VR/AR is Transforming Industrial Manufacturing & Design

Introducing new digital technologies into highly complex and traditionally based businesses could be operationally daunting. Moreover, workplace cultures can add a part of apprehension and may cause to resistance to change. But immersive technologies like Virtual and Augmented Reality can give manufacturing businesses the opportunity to revolutionise the design and production of products, yet as transforming the way employees work and learn. Quite simply, VR and AR can help businesses to save lot of time and money by streamlining workplace practices and improve operational efficiencies.

As the physical assets within your business become more digitally mature with a quickly accelerating amount of Industrial Internet of TIn the context of manufacturing and product design and development, Virtual Reality (VR) digitally simulates a product or environment, often with the user being able to interact and immerse themselves within it. With Manufacturing Augmented Reality (AR) the digital product or information is projected on to a real-world scenario instead of a digitally simulated one like VR.

Applications for VR and AR Technology in the Manufacturing Sector

1. Product design and Variation

VR and AR can actually demonstrate how a product would look like and help to refine and optimize designs at an early stage. Concept and option is reviewed, adjusted and modified quickly. Virtual Reality is one of the best tools that provides rapid prototyping, helping businesses to save both time as well as money across research and development activities. Virtual Reality technology creates a virtual simulation of just about every facet of manufacturing process. The creation of digital twins in an exceedingly virtual environment allows R&D teams to share prototypes and have interactions with stakeholders at an early stage within the design process. It also has the potential to revolutionise workflows and provide businesses the possibility to draw on a world-wide talent pool, as geographical location is no longer a barrier to recruitment.

For instance, Virtual Reality technology can be used to create virtual representations of non-existent vehicles in the tiniest detail. Designs are transmitted into virtual car environments, enabling engineers to see what it’s like to be inside of the future car.

2. Virtual and Augmented Reality for Production

Manufacturing and production have huge amounts of benefit realization from VR and AR. Businesses are now leveraging this technology in their production and assembly processes that gives output in a virtual world. The overall effect helps in speeding up of factory and plant commissioning and operation. In actual scenarios manufacturers have used Virtual and Augmented Reality to:

  • Support for assembly line and optimize shop floor and flow of production lines.
  • Position automation lines, robots, production cells and importantly people, to maximise productivity and efficiency, also as reduce inventory.
  • Operate and handle virtual tools and machinery. Rehearse and train staff for the actual important thing.
  • Factor within the ideal ergonomics for fitters, technicians and other operatives in terms of reach, leaning, twisting and bending. 
  • Inspection and Maintenance in an existing factory environment with Predictive Maintenance and lay it out with new virtual production lines and equipment.

3. Manufacturing Lines Development – Virtual Assembly / Disassembly Validation within a 3D immersive environment 

  • Provides early communication and coordination between the groups participating in digital engineering and production verification.
  • Virtual validation in early phases of production development helps verifying suitable tools and assembly processes, initiating considerable savings in production and manufacturing.
  • AR/VR virtual Try-Out of an assembly process based on a digital model in an early production development phase, ensuring a reduction in development cycle. 
  • Costs reduction with an enhancement of the validation depth and quality with enhanced product diversity.

Virtual validation of manual assembly lines helps to create the production processes planning certainty without using actual hardware prototypes.

For example, engineers and designers can visualize the parts or entire car using the 3D modelling VR technology, even before physical prototypes are built. Users can simulate the features from both the outside and the inside, and they could test them using several parameters like optimization of space, controlling, visibility of entire product, aerodynamics, crash analysis, wiring and piping of product, manufacturing and assembly processes involved, and so forth.

4. Improving Factory Floor Maintenance

The shop floor and assembly line are the backbones of any manufacturing unit. VR/AR enabled apps acts as a digital support for factory floor workers to help support maintenance of precision equipment and improve safety, while reducing downtime and accelerating production.

Leveraging Augmented Reality by employees as a digital work instruction manual to support them to scale process driven activities and successfully identify and fix faults. Businesses can create advanced 3D digital twins. Also, using AR equipment can provide digital information through AR/VR headsets worn by the employee – as well as showing remote support teams the chance to offer real time, tailored support employees, identifying quickly correct flaws or where faults lie or where additional equipment may be required.

By learning and performing on the job with the aid of AR technologies, employees not only grab information and learn faster but it also helps speeding up the learning process and aiding employees to learn while contributing to production. To an added benefit, knowledge gained with the support of AR is retained more effectively when compared with using printed manual instructions. This concludes that these technologies don’t simply provide a short-term fix to solve immediate issues, it has the potential to give long run improved productivity.

For instance, in a plant or factory that holds multiple parts being fitted or assembled together to create a final part, the shop floor employees may get confused from time to time. However, by enabling an AR App that gives step by step instructions, and provides feedback in the case of an error, they can avoid assembling products the wrong way, and even assembling products that have low quality components. This in turn considerably improves the output of the production and assembly line, and ultimately adds credibility to the organization.

5. Manufacturing Training with AR & VR

Keeping safety point of employees while undertaking their work along with making them highly productive is on priority for all manufacturing enterprises. To realize this, having a well-trained workforce with an in-depth knowledge of machinery and equipment, as well as company policies and procedures is crucial.

Immersive technologies can help in training professionals effectively and at speed. VR based training offers employees an opportunity to undertake practical, hands-on and realistic experiences, but in a risk-free environment. What’s more, VR can give the chance for professionals to train together – essential when teams are working together on interdependent tasks.

But it’s not only Virtual Reality which will be used for Manufacturing training purposes. Augmented Reality (AR) can blend real and digital worlds via devices that can offer a hands-on learning experience to support real life, on-the-job training.

For example, VR technology for training purposes is especially effective for trainees who must confront phenomena in rare or dangerous situations that are difficult to observe. For example, a large industrial gas supplier uses VR headsets to train its truck drivers in how to deal with anomalies when delivering some gases that can freeze off fingers or be accidentally inhaled.

AR/VR in Manufacturing Key Points

  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are helping organizations influence the purchase decisions of customers.
  • Immersive experiences of AR/VR boost customer recall and brand loyalty.
  • Streamline processes and flows – from revolutionising the product design process to improving factory production, saving time and creating cost savings.
  • Make factory shop floor safer by offering an effective way to train workers and professionals, improve retention of skills and support employees to keep up equipment on the factory shop floor.

Time to get started

The flexibility and low cost of sensor technology along with mobile inspection workflows result in data growth, and therefore, the Industrial Internet of Things provides greater accessibility to data. This influx and availability of data requires technology and computing power to translate the information and give insight into future outcomes. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are advanced techniques that provide even more an

AR/VR are already a leading technology for manufacturing industry worldwide. And investment will only continue to grow. Expanding on man and machine collaboration is unlocking new avenues to connect factories and interact with data. Enterprises like Oil and gas, manufacturing, utilities are benefitting from solutions to manufacturing training, standardization, optimization, and overall employee well-being.

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