Augmented Reality (AR) systems are now becoming mature technologies for application in manufacturing as well as service systems such as product design, production planning and control, plant and product maintenance, etc. It has been used in a variety of industrial contexts as they may help with many aspects of the product life cycle.

It enhances how a user experiences the real-world which includes the computer-generated perceptual information such as visual, haptic (touch), olfactory (smell), and auditory. It provides the user a holographic 3-D view and is ideal for manufacturing and process control applications. It involves training, simulation, maintenance, remote support, and a variety of additional use cases in an Industry 4.0 AR scenario.

Product Design and Planning (PDP), process design, control, and assembly workplace Design and Planning (WDP) are few of the applications of AR in manufacturing. AR technologies are also applied for optimising a high resource effort process, such as the sequence design. They can be useful to supply information on product, process and progress in production both to the operator and to the line managers in a more natural and effective way. By implementing AR, mission critical data will be collected at breakneck speed. Location-based AR and data mobility features used in process control applications such as modern HMI/SCADA software includes NFC (Near field communication), GPS (Global Positioning System), OCR (Optical character recognition), Barcodes, QR Codes (Quick response code).

The benefit of using AR in an industrial application are
  • Production plant control and error diagnostics
  • Safety and security of production systems
  • Improvement of planning activities including resource matching
  • Product design and reconfiguration
  • Provision of required information at operational and enterprise level
  • Improvement of cooperation between humans and machine
  • Teaching workers complex tasks in a safer manner to increase their productivity

Implementation ideas

An augmented reality system consists of Sensors/tracking (wireless sensors, RFID, Digital cameras, optical sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS), Input devices (Microphones, touch sense, gesture devices, gloves or other body wear), the AR software and an appropriate display /output devices (Smart glasses, lenses). The sensors determine the current position and orientation of the user in the real world, this information is referred to as the "pose". In an AR system the sensors and corresponding software are referred to as the tracking system (or tracker) because they track the user´s movement.

The pose is used by the AR system to determine which information is relevant and should be displayed in the user´s current field of view. Based upon this information the system generates the required augmentation information, e.g. by rendering an image. Finally, the information is combined with the user´s view of the real world and displayed.

Components of the modular production system
Figure: Components of the modular production system

The above figure represents a modular production system, it consists of a modular transport system with workpiece carriers that connects a number of cells e.g. laser-cell, robot-cell and workplaces for manual assembly. Control in the system is decentralised and effected by a digital product memory that is embedded in an RFID chip on the product or workpiece carrier. The assembly can be conducted by a robot, by a human worker or in collaboration between the two. A central design challenge in the development of assistance systems that employ new technologies like AR is used to improve working conditions and improve the user experience.

Smart factories will be based upon advanced intelligence technologies, autonomously functioning, and mechatronic modules. The key technologies used for smart factory are IT layer (consisting of Cloud technologies, Big data technologies, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, IIoT), Integration layer (NFC technologies, semantics technologies, OPC-UA technologies, Edge computing, others), Production and product layer (RFID, Control technology, supply network technology, reconfigurable technologies, open interfaces and others), and Service layer (HMI, Augmented reality, other applications)

Augmented reality plays a vital role in service layer, it allows for visualisation of the real world, sharing entities’ information to the users. It enhances and offers the personal benefits with distinctive experiences of the ecosystem. AR technology allows the operators to control and operate the machines. The Service layer includes other technologies, such as enhanced touch, and gesture interface, virtual technologies etc...

The communication protocols are used in the lower level, close to the machines and at a higher level, close to cloud or enterprise information systems, which enables the contactless communications, information sharing, and networking the ecosystem. Semantic technologies can provide common standards for communication that help machines understand data, it enables bridging and interconnection of data, content, and processes.

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