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AUGMENTED & VIRTUAL REALITY, INDUSTRIAL USE CASES TO CONSIDER

This post is the latest in our series on new technologies impacting industrial manufacturers and distributors. Earlier posts have included Pricing OptimizationIIoT3D PrintingGenerative Design5GArtificial IntelligenceDigital Marketing with CADBlockchainDigital TwinsVisual Search and this one is on Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality. Before getting into the adoption of these technologies let’s define them.

What’s the difference between AR, VR and MR?

Augmented Reality (AR) superimposes digital images and information on the user’s real world. Virtual Reality (VR) immerses the user into a completely computer-generated virtual environment. Mixed Reality (MR) is another name for AR. AR and VR can be viewed as a spectrum per the diagram below. These technologies are implemented in various devices as this excellent CNET video explains. What’s especially interesting is that AR is taking center stage within existing CAD companies (including CDS) and new startups because of the use cases we’ll cover.

Reality Spectrum - Reality to augmented reality to virtual reality

How do these technologies differ from other new technologies?

These are primarily visualization technologies, they don’t automate tasks or replace people but rather improve the productivity and experience of users. For example, they can speed design, reduce or even eliminate physical prototyping, simplify inspection, assist maintenance, and increase safety. It is much quicker to present visually, than to describe verbally or in writing how to fix a complex device, because you can show the problem and the solution superimposed. This can replace manuals and videos, cut down time and effort, and save money.

If you haven’t used VR yet, you’ve likely seen AR?

For example the Pokémon Go game was a huge hit back in 2016 and has continued to improve ever since? For many of us it was our first impression of AR outside of Hollywood sci-fi movies and helps us visualize AR “as the seamless blending of real life objects and virtual objects.”

How is AR relevant to industrial suppliers?

Here are 7 likely use cases:

1. Visualization of 3D CAD models – In almost every phase of design and manufacturing. The virtual model can appear on your desk or any other work environment. Perhaps to gain awareness of space restrictions (accessibility for servicing or other obstacles) or to design an addition or extension to an existing part or machine when drawings or models of the existing item aren’t available.

2. Marketing – AR can show different product configuration options in the client’s setting, or exploded part views superimposed on a machine, or a part to help identification and selection. 

3. Enhanced Collaboration – AR enables engineers to collaborate on their product designs in an entirely new way. Team members or customers, anywhere in the world, can visualize, interact with a 3D model (walk around it, view it in different states, go inside it,..) and discuss it or provide feedback.

4. Assembly Support – AR can provide detailed assembly (or disassembly) information perhaps superimposed with assembly procedures, records or IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) data, overlaying them directly onto your real component, part or machine. Bosch Car Service workshops, discovered that the use of AR applications achieved a time savings of 15 percent and allowed mechanics to see the location of hidden components along with instructions and repair guides. This helped avoid undertaking any unnecessary disassembly/re-assembly work.

5. Maintenance – AR can similarly aid in the maintenance of machinery and equipment, often superimposing IIoT data on top of the physical device. ThyssenKrupp, an elevator manufacturer, views digital overlays of manuals and guides as they repair the elevator. In addition, technicians in the field have the ability to collaborate with remote experts, offsite workers can see what the engineers are seeing, and advise accordingly.

5. Training – Because it is almost wholly visual and interactive AR has an edge over traditional paper or PDF training manuals and facilitates faster self-training, at the pace of the trainee. In a Boeing training, trainees using AR completed the work 35% faster than the trainees using traditional 2-D blueprints.

6. Quality Assurance – QA professionals can take photos of parts or assemblies under inspection, and then compare those images to ones provided by the company’s suppliers via AR overlays. Any out of spec features can be highlighted enabling issue identification quickly and intuitively. Mitsubishi Electric has been developing maintenance-support AR technology on a 3D model that enables users to confirm the order of inspection on an AR display and then enter inspection results with their voice.

7. Customer Support – Xerox is using AR to connect remote technical experts directly with customers. This has increased by 76% the rate at which technical problems are resolved by customers without any on-site help, cutting travel costs for Xerox, minimizing downtime for customers and seeing customer satisfaction rates rise to 95%.

Recommendations

We all face a bewildering number of new technologies and change – AR is yet another. We can’t do everything so need to be selective in deciding what to do. This blog post, How to decide which technology to keep up with and apply may help. With AR we recommend focusing on one or a few use cases that you believe can bring a strong ROI and competitive advantage to your business.

As always, if you have comments or suggestions please make them below, click to ask us a question or call for a discussion. In the meantime we’ll continue to keep you up-to-date on online marketing and eCommerce as well as new technologies impacting industrial suppliers.

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