Simplifying industrial technologies with real-time 3D
Immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality provide new opportunities to make cutting-edge technologies more tangible, easier to plan, control, and sell
In late 2018, the leading German association for industrial communication and B2B marketing, BVIK, released the results of its survey titled ‘Trends in Industrial Communication’, which more than 200 members of the association contributed to. Alongside hot topics such as big data and data analysis, virtual and augmented reality (VR/ AR) topped the list.
It can be observed that Germany, a manufacturing powerhouse, has started to leverage on such technologies. The rest of the world, however, hasn’t quite caught on yet. What could they be missing out on?
First of all, what is virtual and augmented reality?
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-simulation of anything you can imagine – from an existing power plant, to a prototype of a product you are looking to develop but does not exist yet. VR allows the user to interact in a realistic and/or physical way within the simulation, or what is known as the environment. Imagine being able to control the most minute details of a full-scale gas power plant on a screen in front of you, and seeing the effects of manipulating the controls in real time.
Augmented reality (AR), as its name suggests, involves enriching a real-world environment with digital objects. This allows interaction with the real environment while providing additional information or data. Imagine looking at the physical gas turbine in front of you through your iPhone camera while being able to virtually do an x-ray scan of what’s inside the gas turbine.
What has VR and AR got to do with manufacturing?
With a multitude of VR and AR devices popping up in the consumer market (VR goggles, anyone?), you might wonder, as a manufacturer, what these technologies can do for you. Well, quite a lot actually. Let’s talk about some of them.
1. VR and AR technologies in B2B sales and marketing
VR and AR make sales pitches to (potential) clients more immersive. Manufacturing technologies can be complex to comprehend, even more so, the specific engineering functions that add value to the technologies. The logic is simple - if clients cannot comprehend what they are being sold, they are more unlikely to invest in it. During exhibitions, bringing an entire mechanical system to an exhibition, if possible at all, tends to involve very high logistical costs and efforts.
With the right VR and AR technologies, (potential) clients can be transported to the system instead. In addition, a well thought out VR/AR solution not only clearly shows what the product can do for them, but also simplifies the sales pitch by breaking down complex technical components and allowing (potential) clients to interact with the system in real-time.
As the saying goes, seeing is believing, but experience is everything! Seeing the physical product is good, but experiencing the product using VR/AR technologies is even better.
2. VR and AR technologies in engineering and design modeling
The design thinking process cannot be done without prototyping and testing, both of which take up substantial resources.
Imagine seeing your design plans in front of you in full-scale, and being able to manipulate aspects of it, observing the effects of any changes in real-time and making decisions with confidence...all without spending time, effort and money on building actual physical prototypes. With VR and AR-aided technologies, this is now a reality. It frees designers and engineers to explore, refine, and explore again with less costs and logistical constraints.
Take the 10 trillion EUR global construction industry for example. Using a variety of applications, AR and VR technologies are changing the way they do things. Project managers can now track progress and identify time and money drains all before the first foundations are laid, resulting in significant cost savings.
3. Training and educating employees
Training, educating and onboarding employees are important aspects of getting new hires acquainted with a technology
Training employees can be a challenging task, particularly when environments are complicated or even dangerous. This is especially so in heavy industries or in high-risk fields such as oil and gas. The ability of VR and AR applications to perfectly replicate equipment, tools and controls as well as scenarios, make it possible for employees to be immersed in realistic simulations - minus the risk of injury or costly mistakes.
Through the lenses of a complementary device, AR can superimpose anything from holographic images (or “objects”), to instructions on top of a physical system, which can be useful for educating trainees. There is nothing like being faced with a real-time, realistic issue as a learning opportunity, be it on the factory floor or in a university classroom.
4. Better, quicker and more accurate service
Common challenges that plague service engineers include the inability to meet customer demands, inefficiency in allocating resources, and the inability to react to errors quickly enough. The ability of VR and AR technologies to function in real-time allows for real-time data delivery, faster and more accurate responses to issues, less dependence on the physical presence of skilled technicians, and a general increase in efficiency of workflow.
Service technicians can obtain useful information through graphical AR overlays, or step-by-step instructions and guidance from remote experts in real-time as they execute tasks. Expert guidance can be given from anywhere in the world, as VR and AR technologies do away with the need for a physical presence in servicing or maintenance work. This means a reduced labor cost, and the ability to constantly monitor, be alerted to anomalies, and to react appropriately almost immediately.
Clearly, if understood and applied well, implementing state-of-the-art VR and AR technologies can really give manufacturers a boost in their digital transformation journey. The potential applications of virtual and augmented reality are boundless.
MRstudios offers immersive solutions powered by VR and AR that make complex industrial systems and projects easier to understand, therefore offering new ways for companies to plan, control and sell. Utilizing these solutions,
Immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality offer new ways to plan, control and sell complex industrial systems and projects by making them easier to understand. They can enable manufacturers to explain their products in ways that are more tangible, easy to understand, and memorable.