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September 2021

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 sep 2021

According to Investopedia, Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the real physical world that is achieved through the use of digital visual elements, sound, or other sensory stimuli delivered via technology. It is now a pervasive digital technology trend and has become particularly ubiquitous in consumer products like smarphones, with advancements in camera technologies, computer vision techniques, AR software development kits, digital content availability etc. But, its utilization in industrial and manufacturing setting is a bit restricted even though early adopters there have demonstrated its importance. Boeing has tested AR in factory setting. Brian Laughlin, IT Tech Fellow at Boeing, says, 'By using augmented reality technology, technicians can easily see where the electrical wiring goes in the aircraft fuselage. They can roam around the airplane and see the wiring renderings in full depth within their surroundings and access instructions hands-free.' Paul Davies, Boeing Research & Technology Associate Technical Fellow, says, 'Our theory studies have shown a 90% improvement in first-time quality when compared to using two-dimensional information on the airplane, along with a 30% reduction in time spent doing a job.' Volvo Group has also found AR valuable in attracting and retaining employees. Bertrand Felix from Volvo Group says, 'Using visuals and AR is definitely attractive in a manufacturing industry universe. It certainly helps to recruit younger generations, as well as creating new jobs along the value chain who can generate the new digital visual instructions. Many can be created by experienced employees and, in that way, their knowledge is passed on carefully to the younger generation.' Volvo also employs AR to make training more efficient for its operatives. There are many examples like these where AR is finding value. IDC projects a 78.5% global spending increase on AR/VR in 2021. But, what is holding the proliferation of Industrial AR to the depths of manufacturing supply chains, including small-sized contractors is the issue of 'Interoperability'. For many years there have been interoperability challenges between engineering design and manufacturing. Standards Development Organisations (SDOs) have continued to focus on holistic and persistent descriptions of design and fabrication requirements to bridge the gap. Engineering software tools have also made progress in addressing interoperability issues but as manufacturing is moving more towards distributed operations new interoperability challenges crop up for developers. Moreover, for industrial AR the interoperability challenge is further compounded as AR authoring suites often force developers into a silo, which can lock the customer into a particular platform and framework. The lack of suitable interoperability for AR in Industry 4.0, and manufacturing in particular, is costly. Although one-off AR installations have demonstrated value but they are fragile and if the reference data and models change and the use of AR is to continue, the assets of the AR experience must also be modified. In industrial AR installations, automated and persistent data linking, oftern termed as 'digital thread', has not yet been realized. Efforts are being made to bring engineering practice, manufacturing and AR together. Workshop held at IEEE ISMAR 2020 with participants from diverse expertise, including geospatial information scientists, AR software architects, and manufacturing engineers suggests that much of what's needed to realise an AR-capable digital thread is already underway across a number of SDOs. To move forward, manufacturing industry stakeholders and standards working groups must plan for adoption of emerging technologies, such as Industrial AR and address the issues of interoperability between domain-specific models. Without interoperability, manufacturers will continue to struggle with improving the maintainability, reproducibility, and scalability of Industrial AR installations. Read on...

The Manufacturer: Closing the gap between engineering practice and augmented reality
Author: William Bernstein, Christine Perey

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