Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality solutions are spreading in different sectors. Among the first to exploit the advantages of these innovative technologies, there is certainly the industrial production one, which finds considerable economic advantages in their adoption. The targeted use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can in fact help to significantly reduce costs throughout the entire design and development phase of a product, but can also be extended to any company area, from after sales services to marketing, passing to training.
On the other hand, companies of all sizes are always looking for solutions to improve productivity, save costs and keep on being competitive on the market. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are finding great space in the production processes of companies, precisely because they have proven to be functional to these objectives, ensuring a fairly rapid return on investment.
Let's see how using these technologies can help cut costs.
The use of digital technologies in design has not slowed down since 3D CAD has become the absolute protagonist of design processes. Since digital evolution is always in progress, today Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality represent the new frontier.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are definitely part of the Industry 4.0 paradigm. Both are often involved in the design of cars, boats, planes, machinery, industrial automation and other technologically complex products.
It is above all Virtual Reality that is involved in this phase, allowing designers to immerse themselves in the project at 360 degrees and reach unprecedented levels of understanding of the product. By designing in Virtual Reality, it is possible to skip a whole series of intermediate steps that characterize the classic design: within the virtual environment it is easier to evaluate, modify or validate a design, and the comparison with the work team can take place remotely.
The most obvious advantage is that too many physical prototypes are avoided and replaced by virtual ones, with the consequence of reducing the impact of the costs for their realization. Furthermore, the design phases are optimized, shortening the development times, and the problems relating to the product are anticipated, avoiding to intervene at a later time to solve them.
Among the latest applications of Virtual Reality, the most interesting one regards the study of working processes in factories. Using simulations of working moments in Virtual Reality, workers' movements are analyzed to anticipate possible ergonomic and production problems.
For example, assembly operations are studied within a sort of virtual laboratory, with the aim of designing better, efficient and safer production lines and work environments. By combining full-body motion capture (which records the movements of workers in action), 3D printing (which rebuilds the machines) and immersive Virtual Reality (which faithfully reproduces the production environment), it is possible to analyze the body position, the posture and the necessary force to perform an operation. Once any obstacles or dangers have been found in the virtual environment, the required corrections are applied to the real environment, i.e. in the assembly procedures, in the characteristics of a machine or in the layout of a whole assembly line.
This approach to Virtual Reality has brought several benefits to those who have adopted it: less accidents at work, less ergonomic problems, optimization of assembly processes, higher quality of the final product, faster time-to-market and obviously a reduction of all those costs that may arise from the non-resolution of certain problems (accidents, slow assembly, defects in the final product).
Virtual and Augmented Reality are also extremely useful in training activities.
Virtual Reality training, for example, requires employees to train and make decisions in a safe virtual environment, where they can practice necessary tasks without facing real problems. After learning the most suitable changes to avoid risks, the worker will then be able to face his/her duties more carefully.
Increasing the level of safety in the workplace has rightly extended investments in Virtual Reality, since the costs deriving from accidents are rather heavy. This is why well-done training, in addition to ensuring employee health, is also a way of reducing management costs.
If Virtual Reality is a valid ally in internal training, Augmented Reality can be an excellent tool for "external" training. For companies operating B2B, it is in fact essential that their customers are necessarily able to assemble, install or operate the supplied components or machines.
Thanks to the Augmented Reality technology, it is possible to instruct those who will use the product through interactively presented textual or graphic information, 3D images or videos: through a special viewer worn by the technician, additional information superimposed on objects or user’s manuals show how to use the product and solve problems. In this way, it is possible to provide remote training to the customer, with the result of reducing both costs and human errors.
Maintenance and repair, and after sales services in gener, play a very important role in the industrial sector. For these operations, usually, the assistance of a technician of the manufacturing company at the customer's site is required, with the effect of a not exactly negligible cost. But as in the previous case, the manufacturer can save money by providing remote assistance thanks to Augmented Reality.
In practice, the customer will be able to carry out maintenance and repair operations by himself, guided by a remote assistant. By wearing an Augmented Reality viewer - which leaves your hands free to work - the customer company's technician will be able to view in real time, in his field of vision, instructions for the maintenance, diagnostics and repair of the machine. On the other hand, the remote assistant can send files, draw explanatory images, communicate with him by following him step by step.
The use of Augmented Reality in this phase brings immediate advantages: lower costs and better product operation.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are mature technologies, ready to revolutionize the industry. So far, large multinational companies have made extensive use of them to cut production costs and improve their production performance.
Today, however, these technologies are accessible at lower costs than in the past and the quick return on investment can also be beneficial for a medium or small company.
Technology simplifies life and work. And above all, it saves time and money. Virtual and Augmented Reality are the perfect travel companions to explore a future of efficiency and optimization of resources in the industrial sector.