The days when virtual reality technologies were unaffordable are over. Today there are numerous possible applications for virtual reality in small and medium-sized companies. While applications in the area of sales or marketing may be obvious, other areas such as production planning can also benefit.
Planning and process optimization with virtual reality and augmented reality - this is no longer a dream of the future. The emergence of VR glasses such as the Oculus Rift now makes it affordable for small companies and private individuals to dive into virtual realities. While VR headsets are mainly used for entertainment purposes in the private sector, they offer tangible benefits in companies.
For example, planning errors in engineering and plant design are often not recognized until the final assembly operation when it is almost too late to change. Virtual reality solutions enable designers, fitters, service technicians and customers to literally transport CAD planning into the next dimension - independent of location and close to reality.
In most cases, an investment in the low four-digit range is already enough to get started: VR goggles, a computer with a sufficiently powerful graphics card and the appropriate software are all that is needed. However, the resulting benefits are almost priceless:
We would like to explain these impressive advantages to you in detail. Before that, however, a definition of terms is necessary:
Augmented Reality (AR):
Here, the "real" world is supplemented by virtual elements. A function that is used, for example, in the virtual placement of a plant at the customer's site.
Virtual Reality (VR):
Here, the user enters a virtual world completely. Particularly useful, for example, in the early planning phases of a machine or plant, or in marketing and sales.
Technical drawings are meaningful tools for those who know how to read them. These drawings become all the more meaningful when they are transported into the third dimension. Designers thus give themselves and other specialists involved in the process the opportunity to inspect and walk through a plant from all sides - if necessary, even in original size.
This prevents planning errors from creeping in. In addition, the customer can be even more involved in the planning process during the quotation and order phase. The customer can perfectly match the machine or system to the local conditions - completely independent of location.
It is often difficult for the plant or mechanical engineer to estimate the operational processes and spatial conditions at the customer's site. Despite many sketches, CAD drawings, cross-sections and plan views, it is often difficult, even on the customer's side, to imagine a machine or plant in their own production hall.
However, a placement and walk-through of the plant using virtual reality makes it possible to find the optimal machine setup at an early stage. After all, factors such as storage areas for working materials, raw materials and finished goods must be taken into account just as much as escape routes and transport routes. The customer can indicate here early in the process when designs and constructions are difficult to reconcile with the real conditions. This prevents costly and time-consuming production errors.
Even with a correctly designed, perfectly placed machine or plant, one aspect often comes up short: the ergonomics of operation. Walk-throughs and tests with virtual reality glasses enable a valid assessment of the design and its ergonomic parameters. This can prevent last minute changes to try and eliminate health and safety hazards for the employee(s).
Augmented reality can be used not only to plan new plants from scratch, the technology is ideally suited for planning expansions of already existing lines and machines. Image processing capabilities can be retrofitted into automated or partially automated plants allowing a view much earlier in the process
Sales will also be pleased with the entry into virtual reality: abstract ideas and concepts for specific solutions can be brought to a tangible level.
This means: much less difficulty for Sales in presenting the concepts, A better understanding on the part of the customer and a reduced risk of miscommunication. True to the motto: "Show, don't tell."
The benefits of a "digital twin" in production planning are abundant – in both marketing and sales and in existing projects and plants. From the assessment and optimization of plant layouts and machines, to close coordination with the customer regarding the plant conditions and the assessment of ergonomic parameters, to use as a powerful marketing tool that makes abstract things tangible, virtual reality solutions can be used in countless ways.
Probably the best thing about it: the necessary technical equipment is now so inexpensive that you can hardly make a mistake with the purchase.