Industry and immersive technologies – a combination that is constantly growing together in companies and constantly opening up new areas of application. Whether it’s the use of virtual reality in mechanical engineering, production planning or for maintenance and training, VR is already being used successfully on a wide scale.
Industry 4.0 not only means the progressive digitization of industrial production, virtual worlds have also long since arrived in industrial companies. According to a Statista survey within the metal and electrical industry, 25% of the managing directors and board members surveyed said that they had VR and AR in use within their company in 2018. The advantage: Mechanical and electronic processes can be recorded more quickly, financial costs are reduced and the understanding of the respective plants and machines can be trained in even greater detail.
With the use of VR glasses and specially tailored 3D simulation software, users can not only examine virtual plants but also deal with simulated models by means of existing or specially created models. The virtual spatial representation of existing real processes significantly increases problem identification and data analysis. For example, entire factories can also be virtually walked through. As a result, downtimes can be minimized, processes can be optimized and service cases can be handled more cost-effectively and efficiently.
Virtual Reality in Mechanical Engineering
A generated 3D model, such as in the file format CAD (Computer-Aided Design), of a machine or plant can be integrated into a VR application for simulation. Through the VR goggles or also via transmission on a monitor by means of the mixed reality display (the interaction between virtual environment and real user), the 3D-generated machines or plant can be displayed realistically. All employees and customers involved in production can also be integrated into the planning process at an early stage.
Virtual Reality in Production Planning
In production planning, the perfectly coordinated structure of the production process is the most important success factor. In the planning phase, the basis is laid for how well the plant or machine has been designed for the respective application. Complex processes in the planning process, from mechanics and electronics to software development, can be optimized more quickly and efficiently using 3D objects and visualized data. Planning time and labor costs are minimized within the scope of the virtual representation.
Virtual Reality in Maintenance and Training
Especially in the area of maintenance and training, the use of virtually replicated machines, factories or plants brings great added value. A deeper understanding of product design and use is promoted to service staff and technicians, and specialist work processes are supported.
This is because the cost-effective implementation of training courses, even over long distances or other operating locations, can be used to test the operation of plant and machinery. Together, the usability and operability can be tested in cooperation with the various team members – even before the first prototype has been created. Especially in the area of preventive maintenance, all visualized data can be viewed, analyzed and evaluated right from the start.
The Virtual Twin
Based on the principle of the digital twin, it is possible to optimize the overall value creation process. A digital twin itself represents a real object in the digital world. By connecting with real data, such as environmental conditions or positions of machines, digital twins enable the execution of complex analyses and simulations. The principle of the digital twin can be transferred even more efficiently in combination with virtual reality.
One of the most important areas of application is production engineering. However, instead of the classic production process in the form of development, assembly, commissioning and subsequent final use in production, the virtual commissioning can be completed in advance using a digital prototype based on a simulation model. In this way, testing, modification and optimization can already be carried out before development, within the design and manufacturing phase. In the production phase, the virtual twin then helps to optimize the efficiency and quality of the manufacturing processes.
Even if the fields of application are not conclusive, it is certain that Industry 4.0 and the use of virtual reality will continue to go hand in hand.The corresponding solutions can also be implemented with manageable costs and the deployment is relatively uncomplicated.