Virtual reality and augmented reality are ready for commercialization, and some of the most promising applications are in industrial manufacturing and design.
FREMONT, CA: Perhaps the most promising extended reality (XR) technology applications are found in manufacturing and industrial environments. Indeed, according to PwC research, the usage of virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and augmented reality (AR) in product development could raise GDP by $360 billion by 2030.
When determining the optimal deployment strategy for these technologies, manufacturing and industrial business leaders should consider the following points.
XR has the potential to improve the product design process.
In the manufacturing sector, competition is fierce, and the ability to bring new items to market quickly is frequently critical to success. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and augmented reality can improve product design, primarily by speeding up the creative process. Indeed, numerous businesses are currently utilizing XR technology to enhance the design and development of their products.
Ford is an example of such a manufacturer. At Ford, designers utilize the Microsoft HoloLens headgear to create mixed-reality models of automobiles. This enables designers to rapidly simulate modifications to automobiles by overlaying the changes on top of an existing, physical vehicle, a significantly faster technique than the traditional clay model process. While Ford continues to use clay models in many instances, the HoloLens enables designers to swiftly test new concepts without creating fresh clay models for each design.
XR technology can aid in the process of production planning.
Additionally, XR technologies can assist in the production planning process, determine the optimal location of workers and equipment in a new industrial setting, or determine how a new product line will be constructed.
For instance, the American aircraft giant Boeing mechanics’ mechanics employed virtual reality to prepare for the new 737 MAX 10’s construction. Mechanics could visualize how the landing gear should be assembled and what tools would be required using virtual reality headsets, allowing them to provide comments on potential pinch points or new tooling equipment months before assembly began.
AR is suitable for assembly lines.
While it’s not good to have workers on an assembly line wearing immersive VR headsets, less immersive XR technologies can significantly impact the manufacturing process. AR glasses such as Google Glass or mixed reality headsets such as the HoloLens may superimpose instructions and images on real-world components and products, assisting technicians and operators in becoming more proficient.
Workers installing GE wind turbines in Florida’s Pensacola facility wear augmented reality glasses that display digital instructions on adequately installing parts—rather than needing to stop and check manuals at regular intervals. According to GE, this resulted in a 34 percent increase in productivity over regular operating procedures.
Interestingly, GE technicians can also utilize the glasses to watch training videos or call specialists for additional assistance via voice commands (the workers can live to stream their point of view so the expert on the other end can see what they see). This demonstrates how augmented reality glasses are highly adaptable and capable of far more than people might imagine.