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Three ways how Augmented Reality is changing production environments

29 May 2018

The majority of us have already come into contact with some kind of Augmented Reality (AR), be it through Pokémon Go or the IKEA app. We’ve seen how convincing and natural the addition of computer-generate elements to a real image can be. But what about manufacturing? Research institutes like Flanders Make and imec.icon's ARIA are redrawing the boundaries of manufacturing in Flanders. Let's explore three ways how AR can be used in production environments, including what already is possible and especially what will be possible in the coming years.

1. Digital checklists & maintenance

© Proceedix

According to Peter Verstraeten, Proceedix CEO, a whopping 95% of industrial organisations still carry out monitoring and check-ups with pen and paper. Ranging from the production line to quality control and repairs. This causes the employee to sometimes execute up to 100 steps which have to be meticulously written down on paper. A process which can be made much more efficient.

Enter companies like Proceedix, this Ghent-based start-up develops a platform and mobile application for smartphone, tablet and smart glasses allowing users to carry out check-ups and monitoring operations in an AR environment. The company already serves dozens of clients worldwide and, after a successful financial round of € 2 million last summer, will continue to spread and improve its solutions.

2. Complex manufacturing

© De Tijd

These days, manufacturing has gotten a whole lot more complex. Speed of execution and quantity of materials has rarely been higher. Especially in manufacturing of smartphones or jet engines, where every new product requires a new set of assembly instructions.

AR can take those instructions and make them glanceable in your field of view at all times, hands-free and voice-controlled. Imagine having the work instructions along with associated technical drawings and even video from the last person who did the procedure and right in front of you as you're performing the same operation. That means you can keep your hands on your task and you don’t need to walk over to a work station to check something. Companies like Boeing and Volvo have been experimenting with these types of AR applications on their assembly lines.

3. Support by experts

© Proceedix

In many cases of complexity, servicing, or for training purposes, an expert in a certain field of manufacturing will travel to the site where the machine is located. There's a number of inspectors and a number of technicians, but not enough experts for when things, inevitably, don’t go according to plan.

Normally, experts will travel to said location. However, thanks to new AR implementations, experts can now have a direct line with the operator where he/she sees exactly what the operator sees through his/her smart glasses, for example, allowing experts to offer support and perform inspections from anywhere. These applications can also be used for training purposes to supplement employees' existing knowledge in a cost- and time-effective way.

The takeaway

At present, AR is still in its infancy and we expect many new technical possibilities and applications. If you're curious about what to expect, join our visionary seminar in which we explore how AR can be used in production environments, including what already is possible and especially what will be possible in the coming years.

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