How Augmented & Virtual Realities Are Revolutionizing Manufacturing

Jonathan Rudolph | February 2, 2018

You’d be surprised how many people consider the manufacturing industry old fashioned despite its early adoptions of groundbreaking technologies like robotics and automation. The ethics of automation can be discussed elsewhere, but we certainly can’t say the industry is ‘old-fashioned’.

Nowadays, we’re facing a new influx of innovative new technologies that will ultimately shape both our home and professional lives. As we walked through CES 2018 last month, we were inundated with devices for virtual and augmented realities, along with IoT tools with varying degrees of practical value.

Most discussions about these technologies revolve around devices geared towards everyday users. We see smart toilets, innovations in VR headsets, and so forth. But we shouldn’t overlook the enormous advances being made in less glamorous sectors like manufacturing.

In this post, we’re going to break down some exciting virtual and augmented reality advancements in the manufacturing sector. It won’t take long to understand why another massive technological revolution is about to occur for manufacturers across the globe.

Virtual Reality Breaking Ground for Design Engineering

Virtual reality allows designers and engineers to interact with their designs in a more meaningful way than they can with a 2D CAD or even a 3D rendering. The potential for exploring and expanding designs to better suit the operators and maintenance workers are almost endless.

In fact, Boeing is already celebrating the capabilities of virtual reality for their manufacturing process, touting its ability to improve both flight desk design and maintainability.

The video is another example, showing how Ford is using virtual reality to improve their manufacturing process for new vehicles:

Augmented Reality for Streamlined Inspection and Maintenance

Augmented reality has huge potential for the manufacturing process. Usually using smart glasses, the process allows engineers and technicians to access real-time data overlaid on the world around them.

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how this could revolutionize the industry. For example, Mitsubishi Electric recently developed a maintenance-support technology using AR that enables the technician to follow their “order of inspection” on their smart glasses display.  

A similar technology is illustrated in the video below, in which elevator manufacturer thyssenkrupp highlights their AR maintenance technology:

The applications aren’t limited to maintenance. AR is also well suited for assembly, quality control and dozens of other applications for manufacturers.

VR/AR Adoption Rates in the Manufacturing Sector

According to PwC, both virtual and augmented realities are on the “path of mainstream adoption” in the manufacturing sector.

Only 33.3% of their survey respondents had no plans to adopt. One-third may sound high, but that really means two-thirds of manufacturers are planning to adopt VR and AR in the future. Considering how novel the technology, it’s truly a profound insight into the potential VR/AR adoption rates even in the next few years.

Keeping Pace with Augmented and Virtual Realities

The virtual and augmented realities market is growing so rapidly that it makes heads spin. According to Business Insider, the market has a projected 54.01% CAGR until 2022. When you consider how the technology will affect not only everyday consumers but also Fortune 500 companies worldwide, it’s no surprise to see such aggressive projected growth.

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