WHAT IS INDUSTRY 4.0?
Industry 4.0 and its synonym are two concepts that refer to a new digital transformation of the industry marked by the appearance of new technologies. These technologies are known as enabling technologies and among them are Advanced and Collaborative Robotics, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality (XR), IoT (Internet of Things), Cloud Computing, Big Data or 3D Printing.
Industry 4.0 implies a digitization of all production processes, which allows increasing productivity, safety at work, resource management efficiency, quality as a result of the control of automated processes and the competitiveness of industrial companies .
The Extended Realities (XR) are essential to achieve the transition to Industry 4.0.
In this article, we will talk about the main industrial applications and use cases of VR, AR, and MR. But what exactly are Extended Realities and immersive technologies?
WHAT ARE IMMERSIVE TECHNOLOGIES ?
Extended Reality (XR) is the concept that is used to bring together all immersive technologies (virtual, augmented and mixed reality) ans its common feature is the capacity to simulate the physical environment in a hyper-realistic way and add value to the known reality by providing digital elements on it. This technologies differs in how much they add these new elements as well as the devices that are used with each of them.
In fact, augmented reality (AR) is the technology that superimposes digital layers (such as text, graphic elements or videos) on the real environment. Adding these augmented items requires a smartphone or table.
Virtual reality (VR) is the technology that uses glasses to replace the real world with a virtual three-dimensional space. It is the most immersive for the user. Being deprived of the real vision of what is around us, the user is totally immersed in the environment or the situation that has been generated by a computer. Likewise with the VR controls is possible to pick up and move all kinds of objects.
Finally, mixed reality (MR) refers to the combination of virtual and augmented reality. This mix allows creating new spaces in which the user interacts with both real and virtual objects. As with VR, mixed reality requires a viewer, such as Microsoft HoloLens 2, but this time so that the user can directly manipulate the holograms in the same way that they would in the real worl
“The incursion of immersive technologies in industrial plants is representing a true revolution in the sector and its success is unstoppable. But what are the main applications of Extended Reality in Industry 4.0?”
VIRTUAL REALITY IN INDUSTRY 4.0
Let’s now see the most demanded uses of VR in the industrial sector.
Creation of industrial 3D prototypes
There are certain sectors, such as the automotive industry, in which until relatively recently the prototype of the products involved a high investment, since the vehicle had to be physically manufactured to verify its correct operation and design.
However, virtual reality poses a radical change in the process of design, manufacture and security control of cars. VR is a tool for companies in the automotive sector that streamlines the vehicle design phase. Engineers can visualize in real time and immersively different versions of a car, finishes, materials, colors as well as the operation from a virtual prototype, as if they were in front of the real product but without the need to physically manufacture it.
In addition, during the manufacturing process of a vehicle, VR allows to carry out safety tests of automobiles through simulations of specific situations, such as crashes. Thus, with this technology, design flaws in automobiles can be detected before the prototype is manufactured. Seat is one of the manufacturers that has been using virtual reality for a long time in its production chain and affirms that with VR it manages to reduce the production time of a prototype by 30%.
In summary, virtual reality is an ideal tool for the design team, suppliers and end customers to make modifications to the prototype in an agile way, achieving the expected product, having the opportunity to test some attributes (materials, colors, etc.) and see their effect in the vehicle.
TRAINING AMD EDUCATION IN VIRTUAL REALITY
Virtual reality brings new possibilities in training and prevention of occupational risks.
VR training programs allow employees to familiarize themselves with and improve certain tasks and even emergency situations in their workplace, without exposing them to any risk.
VR technology makes it possible to hyper-realistically simulate environments that could occur in industrial processes (such as falls from slippery surfaces, cuts or fires). Thus, through virtual training, an operator can practice the action protocol in case of emergency, living a completely immersive experience.
With the VR controls, the user is free to act actively in the event of any accident that arises in the production plant, rehearsing the response responses as many times as necessary. In this way, once the virtual reality training is finished, the operator will know what to do and will act automatically in case of being in this situation.
VR training is equally beneficial for employees to familiarize themselves with maintenance or repair tasks before performing them on the actual job.
The company Mediterranean water purification (DAM) relied on the VR Training solution from Innoarea Projects to train employees at its WWTP plant in Alzira-Carcaixent (Valencia) in maintenance and repair tasks of facilities.
AUGMENTED REALITY IN INDUSTRY 4.0
More efficient and safer maintenance of machinery
Augmented reality is another of the technologies that are having the most impact in the industrial sector. This technology makes it possible to view information related to machines, their operation and processes in real time. Until a few years ago, when there was an incident on a machine, it had to be turned off and, once the technician had detected the incident, he had to check the instruction manual in order to solve it. The result was notable periods of inactivity, which resulted in losses in production. However, augmented reality optimizes this process and helps make machine maintenance more efficient and safer for operators.
Innoarea Projects is developing AR solutions so that through a tablet or mobile device, the machine is identified and updated data about the operator’s vision are automatically displayed on the screen, so that they can access them at any time. With this, we seek to optimize maintenance and repair operations, reducing downtime in industrial companies.
THE MIXED REALITY IN INDUSTRY 4.0
Technical assistance or guidance of operator instructions
Mixed reality is a technology that represents a great step forward in Industry 4.0 in terms of solving technical incidents in industrial machinery. Through mixed reality (MR), the factory worker has the possibility to communicate directly with the technical service and be guided during the resolution process by that expert technician. Innoassist is a tool that uses software and mixed reality devices to save waiting times caused by breakdowns and speed up the work of the operator when he has to solve an incident.
The Innoassist system makes it possible for the operator to maintain live and remote communication with the person responsible for the technical service, being able to complete this connection with images and extra content that will be shown with augmented reality on the real vision of the operator, facilitating the required tasks.
The fact of seeing visual indications by the technician about his field of vision, improves not only his work but also his productivity and his safety because the operator is guided step by step and knows exactly what he must act to eliminate the incidence and repair the machine.