4IR technologies Augmented Reality

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Last week we began to explore some of the technologies that are being used in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), beginning with The Internet of Things and Predictive Analytics.

This follows our new 4IR fact card, showing the digital transformation that manufacturing is going through and where UK manufacturers currently are in this transformation process.

Augmented Reality is the second 4IR technology that we will explore in this series, and its potential to improve productivity for manufacturers.

What is it?

Augmented reality (AR) is technology that takes a user's view of the real world, and superimposes it with computer generated sound, video, graphics, or location data, providing a composite view. For example, machine information and instructions being virtually displayed next to the machine, in order to better assist someone to carry out repairs.

Augmented reality in manufacturing can take several forms, including head-mounted displays; handheld displays; and spatial displays to project virtual objects into the environment. It is also applicable in wearable technology, such as gloves, goggles and suits.


What are the benefits?

Augmented reality can offer several benefits to manufacturers in order to improve productivity. One such use is in remotely training workers by allowing the trainer to deliver information directly to the trainee on the shop floor without them having to be in a particular location, and therefore reducing travel costs and training time.

One other benefit is that it can help workers to identify ways to enhance product design and prototypes in a more realistic manner and to scale. By seeing a design in real time and to scale, users can visualise different design options in context quickly and interchangeably as necessary before creating physical prototypes.

Augmented reality could also have significant use in allowing experts to remotely give the knowledge required to fix machines. By a user having the necessary instructions and information to fix the machine without having to wait for an engineer or another expert to come out to fix it, machine downtime can be drastically reduced and productivity will not be as affected as it would have been otherwise.


Augmented Reality in practice

One large car manufacturer uses augmented reality to see potential car designs overlayed over a physical prototype to scale. This allowed the manufacturer to fix issues quickly, without wasting vital money and time on multiple physical prototypes; as well as collaborating better.

The use of augmented reality in wearable technology can also assist in monitoring safety levels of certain activities for workers by revealing the temperature, vibration levels, risk of chemical exposure or other data from IoT devices.


Are you investing in Augmented Reality?

We want to hear your stories of 4IR investment. Share your experiences more widely and help manufacturers like you by emailing 4ircasestudies@eef.org.uk to tell us your story.



Be sure to check back later this week for our final part in this series, on cobots and how they can improve manufacturing productivity.


Business Environment Policy Adviser

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