Looking behind the scenes: Augmented reality in the industry

Augmented reality is entering the industry: It enables all existing data of a plant or machine to be displayed on the mobile device in real time. This saves time, leads to fast response times and ensures precise maintenance and inspection of industrial objects.

Mobile workers can use augmented reality applications to receive and enter data as well as test results directly on the mobile device and even add a photo, or voice memo.
Mobile workers can use augmented reality applications to receive and enter data as well as test results directly on the mobile device and even add a photo, or voice memo.

Augmented reality allows additional digital information to be shown on the display of a mobile device. In the industry, this new technology opens up a huge potential and can be used in a variety of areas: from production planning, service and maintenance to employee training and further education. This new form of visualisation and the permanent availability of all data for a specific plant object allows to quickly and easily identify space requirements, necessary connections, or technical defects and supports the completion of tasks with millimetre precision.

Mobilising augmented reality

Smartphones, tablets, sensors and smart HMI (Human Machine Interface) systems are the cornerstones for augmented reality (AR) applications and the new technological age in the industry – even in hazardous areas.

Pepperl+Fuchs and its brand ecom, a specialist for mobile devices for use in hazardous areas, allow continuous process visualisation and control as well as the integration into the digital network of the entire plant at practically every point within hazardous environments. The latest device in ecom’s mobile worker ecosystem is Tab-Ex 02. Due to its magnetic gyroscope, the tablet enables users to identify objects in an installation via augmented reality applications. The software delivers all underlying, existing data directly on the mobile device’s display in real time, while also making it shareable within a company’s network.

Whether through construction plans, maintenance information, or operating states – the reality is enriched and extended by virtual data already stored in the plant. The mobile use of AR can solve multiple challenges and tasks in the industry – from rapid commissioning of a plant, transparent processes and precise maintenance to efficient asset management.

Augmented reality assisted navigation guides employees – both internal and external – efficiently and above all safely through complex plants.

Fast commissioning and navigation

The commissioning of a plant should run as smoothly as possible and without delay. Until now, important data, or deviations were often labouriously recorded on paper and then transferred to the system before anyone could react, or process the data further – a time-consuming process.

With the help of mobile devices and an AR application, however, the valuable data is quickly and easily accessible. Lengthy intermediate steps and handwritten notes, lists, or the consultation of the manual are no longer necessary. Mobile workers can use AR applications to receive and enter data as well as test results directly on the mobile device and even add a photo, or voice memo.

Merging the data sources simplifies the daily onsite work enormously. Augmented reality not only identifies what users see, but expands this information, and also helps them to get to the location of an event.

Augmented reality assisted navigation guides employees – both internal and external – efficiently and above all safely through complex plants. Even in cases of emergency, the application helps to scan the environment; so, workers can quickly find fire extinguishers, assembly points, or safe escape routes.

Inspection and Maintenance 4.0

During inspection and maintenance, mobile workers not only benefit from the navigation function for sometimes in extensive plants but also from the relevant data of the objects to be inspected. AR provides them with all significant technical data on their mobile device in real time. The device uses sensors to detect the object and the software then displays all relevant technical data.

Thus, a mobile worker who inspects a plant in a potentially dangerous working environment can record the result and repair any damage during maintenance, or initiate necessary repair measures immediately. If an additional specialist is required for professional support, he, or she can simply be connected to the mobile device in real time, without having to visit the plant himself/herself. This immensely facilitates and accelerates remote diagnosis and maintenance in hazardous areas.

Using shutdowns efficiently

Managing business-critical assets efficiently to minimise downtime and costs is essential for industrial companies. Due to constantly increasing price and cost pressure in global competition, no company can afford long shutdowns of a plant. Productivity, efficiency, flexibility and plant safety can be increased by means of a smartphone, or tablet with AR application.

Plant supervisors receive all data at a glance, which facilitates smooth scheduling and workflow planning. Fast and complete data availability and good data quality save time. This enables companies to react more quickly and precisely to spontaneous outages, or guarantees the on-schedule start-up of the plant after a planned shutdown.

New technologies for the industry

The computer-aided extension of reality by AR shows aspects that were previously not visible, but which directly affect the field under consideration – a visualisation that saves time. The extended image on the mobile device, for example, shows the maintenance staff defective spots and repair instructions – in real time and on site.

With Pepperl+Fuchs as its umbrella brand, ecom offers an integrated and future-proof solution and global service portfolio that opens up many new possibilities along the entire supply chain in line with the Industrial Internet of Things.

Recently, ecom introduced a new family member and successor to its ground-breaking tablet series Tab-Ex – Tab-Ex 02 – based on the latest Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2. The new tablet combines high performance with innovative applications such as augmented reality. With Tab-Ex 02, the mobile user can communicate in real-time, anytime, anywhere, as well as collect and retrieve data, parameters and information remotely.

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