How the new technology can be used to generate more revenue
Topic of the Month
Virtual Reality itself is an old story: Already in the 1980s, this technology wanted to take off. However, the right technology was simply not available yet. Today it is different. VR glasses not only offer numerous applications for consumers, but they can also be used in production environments. This thus allows the industry to benefit from the new technology.
Marketing: Show your Work!
Aurubis is using Virtual Reality to show potential customers their production lines. Photo: Mika Baumeister
Virtual Reality offers completely new possibilities. Instead of regular videos, it is possible to present your own production facility in a virtual sphere. Potential customers can view the company premises, the machines used or the already manufactured products virtually in real size. This results in greater commitment, an 'aha' effect and ultimately more concluded contracts.
One of the companies successfully using Virtual Reality in the metal industry is Aurubis. At wire & Tube, the internationally active group presented its own production line using VR glasses. In addition to the factory, the shipping warehouse was also on display. A speaker's voice explained the exact steps within the production process so that even laymen could follow the procedure. By using Virtual Reality, Aurubis was able to bring customers closer to the action and to explain the processes in detail.
Companies such as Boeing also rely on VR technology: In special applications, it is possible to virtually view aircrafts produced by Boeing. With simple hand movements, entire turbines can be viewed in the exploded view - and this helps not only in marketing but also in product development.
Prototyping: With glasses to the finished product
VR glasses help with the research and engineering of new goods, cutting down production time. Symbolic picture: Eddie Kopp, Unsplash.com
Even 3D printing was already an enormous relief for the development department. For the first time, additive processes allowed so-called "rapid prototyping". The speed can be further increased by the use of VR glasses: Instead of waiting for the finished print, the created object appears directly in three-dimensional space. The conception phase can thus be shortened. In addition, elements in the virtual world can be animated so that operational processes can directly be visually analysed. Errors are noticeable before the complete assembly; a new iteration of the individual parts is created faster than in rapid prototyping.
Numerous tools enable the targeted processing of objects in a virtual environment. This procedure is more intuitive than prototyping in 2D programmes on the computer. The developers can create different sketches without spending much time, concept phases become shorter. The prototype files created are compatible with the programmes that are already in use in the workflow.
Prototyping can be directly connected with digital structural calculations. Additional programmes allow the direct integration of a graphical overlay for loads, air resistance or the like. Thus weak points can be directly and optimally improved.
Augmented Reality for support and mechanics
Augmented Reality in particular is one of the industry's hopes: In contrast to VR, AR relies on the addition of digital image objects to the real world. This allows overlays to be placed on real products without users losing sight of the essentials. For the consumer market, for example, there are the first navigation programmes that take customers to the nearest café.
Augmented Reality also offers numerous application possibilities for companies. The technology is already in use at Deutsche Telekom, for example. When setting up a complicated switch box, AR glasses indicate which cable must be inserted at which point.
This concept can be extended: In addition to control cabinets, the production process of an entire car could be explained in Augmented Reality. With the knowledge shown digitally, even laymen would be able to tighten the right screw in the right place with the right torque.
Warehouses also benefit from the technology. The compilation of contents for packages is simplified by a digital packing list, which can be seen at all times out of the corner of the employees' eyes. In addition, the positions of different products can be defined so that the glasses guide the employee to the right section in the right aisle.
Teaching and learning in VR
The new technologies are relatively expensive to purchase, especially with the corresponding software. Nevertheless, the investment pays for itself again. After a period of development and training, the digital tools will be available at any time and can be used productively and intuitively.
Virtual Reality also has its advantages in teaching: The targeted use of this technology saves on materials that would otherwise have been required in practice. Trainees or students can better imagine the modelled results by means of a 3D view. A monitor does not convey the size and proportions as well as VR glasses can. For example, the function of a CNC milling machine can first be explained virtually before it goes to a real workpiece. In this way, defects, for example, due to excessive feed, can be avoided right from the start.
The fields of application of AR and VR technology are manifold even in the metal industry. The use of these new types of glasses is only slowly gaining ground. One reason for this is the high initial investment. An additional barrier is the integration into tried and tested processes. Here, industry leaders must confirm the effectiveness of virtual overlays. Similar problems exist in the teaching sector. Physicians are already learning with VR glasses during their studies. By the time that the trend reaches engineers, technology will have developed further and prices will have fallen.