Virtual reality (VR) technologies are perhaps most widely known for their entertainment applications, so it isn’t entirely surprising that many people have failed to grasp the potential these technologies possess in terms of altering the way products are manufactured or how services are delivered. As interesting as it might be to learn about neat consumer products like the Oculus Rift, you may be equally interested to learn about the many applications VR technologies possess in the automation manufacturing industry.
There’s no disputing that workplace safety has improved by leaps and bounds in recent decades, but workplace safety requires constant vigilance, effort, and attention to detail by all those involved. It isn’t unreasonable to go so far as to say that one workplace injury or fatality is unacceptable. With that high of a standard rightfully in place, technology must be leveraged in order to keep the workplace safe – but not just any technology will suffice.
(VR) allows management to run through different scenarios that would be too difficult, too costly, or too dangerous to replicate in real life allowing them to identify potentially dangerous situations that perhaps weren’t identified before. Having this type of technology available is immeasurably valuable and allows management to be proactive in regards to employee safety. When it comes to dangerous tasks, virtual reality simulations can be used to determine a potential employee’s suitability at completing the task. Implementing this type of technology to find the right employee for a given task can prevent an ill-suited employee from being put into a situation for which they are ill-equipped. How well does it work? After VR tech was adopted by Ford, the automotive giant saw a 70 percent reduction in workplace injuries. Not only is it clear that VR is keeping Ford employees safer on the job, but it is also saving the company millions in lost productivity.
To further tout the safety merits of virtual technology, VR can help automakers simulate real-world conditions to see how their vehicles will perform in different situations. The result of course is a product that is safer for the end consumer.
Creating Better Products
Since VR allows the user to essentially create a form of reality, it can be used to improve consumer products at a fraction of the cost. VR headsets that employ cameras, depth sensors, and motion sensors to place realistic images into a working environment allows the user to see parts and see how they can be assembled or interact with other items. Though it might seem like such technology is a thing right out of science fiction, it is widely used by the following companies:
- Lockheed Martin – The aerospace giant currently employs VR technology in the manufacture of its F-35 fighter jet. According to the company, the adoption of this technology is linked to two very impressive statistics: engineers are able to complete tasks 30 percent faster and their accuracy has improved by up to 9 percent.
- Boeing – According to Boeing, VR has allowed technicians to more easily identify where electrical wiring is to be placed in the aircraft’s fuselage. They are also able to navigate through the virtual aircraft, view high resolution renderings, and access instructions hands-free.
The key takeaway here is that finding a flaw in a physical product can take weeks of post-production analysis which is both costly and time consuming, whereas VR technology can help engineers find those same product flaws before a mold is cast and materials are used.
Maintenance, Training & Cost Cutting
When it comes to manufacturing products, the physical prototype has long been the gold standard for ensuring specifications are met before production begins. In the event that a product fails testing not once but several times, the cost of getting a product to market can spike dramatically. Using VR technology, forward-thinking manufacturers have eliminated the need (or at least significantly reduced the need) for physical prototyping. Simply put, VR has allowed companies, like Boeing, to see each piece of equipment associated with a design and how the finished product is assembled in a virtual environment. Virtual training programs are also acknowledged as a significant cost saver; by some estimates, VR can help reduce the time it takes to train an employee by nearly 7 percent.
VR has the potential to fundamentally alter the way we work, deliver services, and collaborate. In automation, this impact is already being felt in a big way. As VR continues to permeate across all industries, especially within automation, aspiring automation technicians will benefit from advanced industrial automation training. George Brown College’s Automation Technician Certificate Training Program incorporates learning through 2D- and 3D-simulation software and features CircuitLogix, RoboLogix, PLCLogix, and 3DLab simulation products.
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