Augmented Reality for Industry

The technology is already considered mature for quality inspections, work instructions and training and is poised for wide deployment across industries.

Though most Internet of Things (IoT) discussions focus on cloud storage of connected device data and the endless analytical and decision-making possibilities it enables, the real world applicability of the concept still seems far off for many industrial companies. Augmented reality (AR) may be the application that serves as the pivot point for IoT adoption because of its proven applicability and readiness for core industrial activities such as quality inspection, work instructions and training.

Calling IoT the “defining technology trend of our time,” Jim Heppelman, president and CEO of PTC, kicked off the company’s LiveWorx event in Boston this week. The event marks the official roll out of PTC’s Vuforia Studio Enterprise AR platform, which was referred to as ThingX during the company’s ThingEvent earlier this year (you can read my report on ThingEvent here).

“The physical and digital worlds are converging into a single new reality thanks to IoT,” said Heppelman. “And we are pursuing augmented reality strongly to connect the physical, digital and human experience. It [AR] will completely change everything, from engineering to manufacturing to sales.”

According to PTC, Vuforia Studio Enterprise is integrated with the company’s Creo 3D CAD visualization and illustration software and ThingWorx IoT platform to add an augmented reality component to connected things.

To highlight for LiveWorx attendees how AR is being deployed by companies today, Terri Lewis of Caterpillar joined Heppelman onstage to demonstrate how Caterpillar, as a beta customer for Vuforia Studio Enterprise, is using AR to help users operate and maintain the company’s XQ35 generator, which is used to provide portable power at construction sites and concert events.

Viewed through a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, Vuforia’s AR shows XQ35’s operating data and instructions on how to operate it and how to perform maintenance—such as replacing filters, changing the oil, etc.

In a session focused on AR use in industry, Patrick Ryan and Dan Arczynksi of Index AR Solutions, a developer of AR applications using Vuforia, spotlighted seven clear uses cases for AR in industry: inspection/quality assurance, work instruction, training, workflow management, operations, safety and logistics.

Ryan said that, based on 50 pilot projects the company has done to date—including work with Newport News Shipbuilding, inspection/quality assurance, work instruction and training are the most mature applications of AR.

In a video showcasing Newport News Shipbuilding’s use of AR, one of the company’s users noted that, with AR, he could more easily identify the structure he needed to work on. He added that he could look at the ship’s structure and see how the cable he was assigned to install needed to be run rather than looking at a paper diagram and having to transfer cable layout concept to the real structure.

AR isn’t a technology with incremental 2-5 percent savings, said Arczynksi, “it’s a game changing application with measurable savings ranging from 25 percent to more than 90 percent.” The reason savings are so high with AR, he says, is because “when you augment people with AR, you’re not buying equipment—you're freeing up cash flow because you're speeding up processes.”

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