The manufacturing industry has been through several changes over the years ever since the first industrial revolution. Nowadays, the manufacturing process relies much more on digital solutions that can upgrade production capabilities to a whole new level.
In this way, Industry 4.0 is all about bringing a tech layer to the manufacturing industry’s shop floor and this includes the enhancement of human workers. This enhancing process is called augmentation. An augmented worker is an operator that uses technology to enhance his skills, which can improve their daily physical and cognitive tasks. Not only will this allow operators to do more focused and efficient work, but it will also help them overcome their failures.
Working in Mixed Reality
Augmented Reality is part of Mixed Reality. It describes the connection of real environments with virtual ones. AR applications show how this connection looks in practice. Augmented Virtuality is a subcategory of Mixed Reality. While Augmented Virtuality applications and tools have a stronger focus on the virtual level, they are still connected to the real environment.
Even without the possibilities of largely or fully automated machine maintenance, time plays a central role. If maintenance results and targets have to be transferred into manuals, the processes are delayed and take longer than necessary.
With AR technology, the comparison of goals and results can take place in parallel on an AR display. In this case, the voice control also helps to use the manual easily while the hands remain free.
HoloLens technology combines maintenance service, virtual models, and modern communication channels. Thus, maintenance technicians have access to all relevant information, can compare these with virtual models, and carry out maintenance with their hands-free.
The technical support does not even have to be on-site to do this: all necessary inspection steps can be transmitted to an on-site technician via HoloLens. The AR glasses work in two directions:
👉 The technician on site sees the exact instructions for professional maintenance via the display and receives precise step-by-step instructions.
👉 The support team at the head office has a direct view via the glasses and can carry out the maintenance remotely.
🟢Promoting Collaborative Ways of Working
improving collaborative solutions and easier access to expert knowledge make for AR applications that enhance collaboration. This makes it easier to coordinate and carry out maintenance and servicing work, even in larger production contexts.
AR technology is intended to close the personnel gap that exists in many companies due to the lack of skilled workers. Thanks to AR applications, experts can be called in from anywhere without having to be on site. The employees can be guided by experts thanks to telepresence and transmission of the situation in the factory. This knowledge transfer can even be used for training purposes – as a kind of “learning-by-doing” under the direct supervision of qualified technical staff.
🟢 Improving Customer Relations
AR technology enables much better visualization – of the products themselves, of individual components, or the integration of the machines and systems into the operation. Therefore, customers not only gain an idea of how a product works but also of its spatial dimensions at the intended location.
🟢 Help With Quality Assurance
Virtual models of products and components can also be used in quality assurance together with AR devices. The displays can be used to compare the original and the model via overlay. If there are deviations from the manufacturer’s specifications, these can be marked directly in the overlay.
🟢 Better Planning of Production Areas
Using AR technology, models of production areas or entire manufacturing plants can be projected onto the real environment. In this way, it is possible to check the planning of machines, storage areas, transport, travel, and escape routes in advance of commissioning – and to optimize them should the need for subsequent improvements become apparent on site.
AR technologies are used in many business and production areas. They are used as a support to achieve improvements in quality, costs and time. To do this, however, it is necessary to adapt the applications to the respective requirements of the different areas.
Employees’ well-being, attention span and efficiency will increase with the benefits these technologies carry. Augmentation will improve human operator’s work, which will translate into a healthier and higher-quality manufacturing performance. Factories must start their Augmented Reality journey sooner than later, as they will, without a doubt, achieve great results with the tools that Industry 4.0 presents.
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