Augmented reality (AR) is a visual tracking technology that superimposes virtual imagery, graphics, and objects on the user’s real-world view. Think of it as an extension of cyberspace, where digital information can be overlaid or merged with the physical world. Although AR is still in its infancy as a manufacturing solution, there are many things manufacturers need to know about this emerging tech. Here are five augmented reality solutions for manufacturing that will make your life easier:

Virtual tour

Virtual tours let users see the product from every angle, and they can walk around the object using AR technology. This can be helpful for people who have trouble reading images, or who want to see the product from every possible angle before purchasing it. Manufacturers can use AR technology to create a 360-degree tour of production facilities or show customers aspects of their products that are difficult to see (like the inside of a car’s engine bay).

Reverse engineering and CAD integration

Reverse engineering involves taking an existing product and analyzing it to determine how it was designed and made. You can integrate AR into a computer vision system to automatically detect the CAD model of the product, then provide users with a 3D model. You can use CAD integration to let customers view product designs from different angles, review product features, and let customers view all available CAD models of your products.

Collaboration and communication

Manufacturers can use AR to create a virtual meeting space with shared CAD models, collaborate on designs, and communicate with customers via a virtual customer service representative. This can help customers who can’t come to your facility because of illness or other reasons. But it can also help design teams who are working across a geographic distance.

3D printing and robotics

AR can help manufacturers use 3D printing to create custom parts and design products that would be difficult or impossible to manufacture using standard production equipment. It can also be helpful for training employees on robotic manufacturing equipment. AR can let employees view AR images of robots or equipment to make sure they’re operating correctly. Instead of seeing static images, employees can see what a machine is doing in real time. AR can also be helpful for showing employees how a machine operates and showing them how to perform specific tasks. For example, AR can show an employee how to align certain components on a production line.

The future of augmented reality in manufacturing

As with any new technology, it’s important for manufacturers to understand the current state of augmented reality in manufacturing. And, as with any new tech, there are several companies and solutions trying to make a splash in the industry. So how does AR fit into the future of manufacturing? AR is most helpful when it augments what a robot or machine is capable of doing, but current implementations rarely break new ground.

Bottom line

The best augmented reality solutions for manufacturing are those that let you see your product from multiple angles, show you CAD models, and let you collaborate with design teams. In addition, these solutions should use 3D printing and robotics to augment what machines and robots can do. AR will likely become more helpful as manufacturers integrate the technology into their production and business processes.

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