Imagine being able to repair a complicated production tool, while receiving real-time instructions on precisely which bolt needs tightening and how to do it. Being informed all the while about how far you have come in the process. Sounds clever doesn't it?
You will soon be able to do this. Augmented Reality is on its way into the industrial context. The advanced technology allows you to add several layers of data on top of reality, which become visible using a pair of glasses.
"The technology is developing at a rapid rate, so applications will undoubtedly expand dramatically in the future, but right now you can use Augmented and Virtual Reality in connection with service activities or training, for example. Complicated tasks which require specialist knowledge," explains Ulrich Hedegaard Brorson, Senior R&D Manager.
He is the head of the AME Digital Development and Innovation department. The department is researching some of the latest 3D technology and digitalisation trends. He and his colleagues, Hans Jørgen Klein and Søren Steen Nielsen, are among the Grundfos employees who are leading the way in research into Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies and their use in an industrial context.
Exploiting both technologies
The technologies can also be used for training activities, such as 'peer training', where they can make expert knowledge available to everyone at any time of the day.
"For activities requiring reflection, Virtual Reality might be more useful than Augmented Reality. We are therefore researching into both technologies. They should be seen as tools which you can choose between, depending on the nature of the task and the desired outcome," explains Søren Steen Nielsen.
Using the technology in connection with training leads to several advantages. In addition to being available all over the globe, independent of individual experts, it also ensures a standardised training process which eliminates the propagation of 'bad habits'.
"The technology can also be used for cooperation across segments, for example during new development, where data from production and design can be integrated to quickly provide an accurate picture of whether an element can be easily produced," notes Søren Steen Nielsen.
He explains that Augmented Reality can also be used to work out whether a given production system can actually be set up in the intended environment.
"You can 'create' full scale production lines via data, position them on site using AR technology and see whether the physical setting fits with the plans."
Within Denmark, Grundfos is among the pioneers of research into Augmented and Virtual Reality, and it is important to look in the right places while working to better understand the technologies. Even to sources that might seem surprising.
"We are looking at the gaming industry, among others. This sector is very advanced in its use of the technologies and has gained experience we can draw on. But we also work with universities and other knowledge institutions," says Hans Jørgen Klein.
"It is extremely important that we are open to learning from others. Both inside and outside our organisation. We are therefore very keen to discuss things with our colleagues who work with the technologies, so we can together create the best conditions for using them in the Grundfos world.