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Industry 4.0: How Augmented Reality Is Transforming It to a Whole new Level

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.

🔹 The essential task that augmented reality fulfills: With its help, real environments can be supplemented or overlaid with digital elements (visual or sound). It requires only the necessary equipment. Because the applications can be used with special AR glasses as well as with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, it is very user-friendly. The application fields for Augmented Reality are primarily in manufacturing.

There are many augmentation solutions available, however Augmented Reality (AR) provides the most important technological advantage for manufacturers, as it contributes to making humans work better and become more productive. Through AR, workers can see and interact with real-time step-by-step instructions overlaid on the shop floor’s equipment. Operators can have hands-free interactions with digital instructions through gestures and voice commands. Operational costs such as time of work, water, and energy consumption, as well as waste, are dramatically reduced while, at the same time, safety on the shop floor increases. Overall, the continuous development of the relationship between man and machine, and the digitalization of the production process reduces non-value time on the shop floor.

Markers are usually used for the functioning of AR systems. These help to correctly assess the position and orientation of the virtual objects in the real environment. Alternatively, there are methods that do not require markers, such as Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) or Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM).

These Various Systems Are Used for the Visualization:

👉 Head Mounted Displays (HMD) are famous glasses or helmets. They are typically used for VR applications with completely virtual environments – but can also be used for augmented reality.

👉 Mobile displays, i.e. smartphones and tablets, are also known outside the industrial context, and some applications have already been mentioned at the beginning. In production, mobile devices help to map complex products or processes in a simple way.

👉 Spatial Augmented Reality (SAR) systems work differently because they use projectors. They project virtual elements directly onto real objects. The advantage is that this form of visualization enables hands-free solutions, which means that manual work processes can be carried out while being provided with digital information or guided by remote assistant systems.

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.

🟢 Support With Complex Assembly Tasks

New products make assembly more difficult, thus delaying the processes. The reasons for this are, amongst other things, new assembly instructions and the way they are presented. PDF documents, which are often used to gain the necessary information, take up too much time.

However, with AR support, the information can be made easily accessible and highly visible. Using AR support with voice control also helps speed up the process as workers have their hands free and do not need to interrupt the assembly to gain the information needed. Such AR applications are now more broadly used, and technological progress has made the necessary equipment and associated software much cheaper than it was 20 years ago. In aerospace technology, for example, where the assembly is carried out in considerably larger dimensions, projectors are used to show the exact position of individual parts.

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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