Why is AR useful in engineering?
A monitor screen alone is sufficient to look at the design of the plant from all sides. But in order to really dive into the plant and to walk through it, many companies are following the trend of using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the engineering. And rightly so,
because these glasses make it possible to „experience“ every dimension and even the tiniest component. Be it as a sales object, compact on the table, or in real size next to the connecting machine – the machine or plant becomes more real than it will ever be on the monitor screen. And that offers many advantages for the quality assurance in the entire development process. But what if the VR and AR user could see not just the static CAD model in the real environment, but his virtual plant including the material flow and robotics?
Unbeatable combination:simulation and AR in one
Machineering has managed to link VR & AR systems optimally to the industrialPhysics simulation software. The models that are transferred to the virtual reality are based exclusively on real CAD data. All of the parameters implemented in the simulation model are transmitted to the virtual model in real time. Hence the behaviour of the plant can be simulated in real time during the early development phases, enabling the determination of the exact cycle time as well as the future utilisation rate of the plant. Problems with the plant that would occur after the construction of the real machine are already visible on the model. Through the use of AR glasses, the running plant can even be walked through in order to better identify possible sources of error. Users can thus run through all processes on the virtual model and discuss them in advance.
Contrary to the VR system, the AR glasses offer the possibility to merge industrialPhysics models into the real environment. Live information from the controller can thus be merged directly into the model. The main advantage of the AR technology is that users perceive their environment during use and can also interact with other HoloLens users.
What AR systems are currently available?
There are a great many different AR systems on the market, i.e. computer-assisted extensions to the perception of reality through which the user – supported by a Natural User Interface – can display interactive 3D projections in the direct environment. The best-known AR system is the HoloLens from Microsoft. It is a pair of glasses that is worn like a bicycle helmet and works without a Smartphone or computer. The user looks through transparent screens, through which the projections can be directly seen. However, the high resolution images do not represent holograms, but are generated through projected points of light. The Microsoft HoloLens is controlled by gestures and language as well as head and eye movements.
The main advantage of the AR technology is that users perceive their environment during use and can also interact with other HoloLens users who, if they are also wearing a HoloLens, see the same model. Not forgetting the advantage that both hands are free with the HoloLens. This property becomes important in the case of a repair, where the service employee can connect to the glasses and provide remote instructions in order to repair the damage quickly.
The currently available HoloLens is still a developer version. As the display is still small, interactions with the virtual model are difficult. For example, if a virtual knob is to be actuated in the HoloLens, this can entail great effort. The weight of the glasses on the nasal bone also takes some getting used to, especially for those who normally wear glasses anyway. The current battery running time of the HoloLens is one hour, which is definitely improvable. Despite the difficulties with the currently available glasses, the advantages are obvious.
Those who claim the use of expensive powerwalls is a good compromise until the glasses have reached „the next level“ just want to justify their high innovation costs in the screen. What is clear, however, is that one can already obtain a completely new perception of the machine today with the HoloLens and, what is most important: it can emotionally grip the user. That makes work fun!