In manufacturing, a MR system can indicate the name and attribution of parts by displaying virtual labels overlaying the objects. The system can guide an assembler, showing virtual arrows as to where the part goes into an assembly.

Virtual Reality in Manufacturing

Len Calderone for | ManufacturingTomorrow


Virtual Reality is a combination of the definitions for both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. The definition of “Virtual” is near and “Reality” is what we are subjected to as human beings. Therefore, the term “Virtual Reality” means “near-reality”.

Basically, a virtual environment is created, and users are able to connect and interact with that environment as though they were physically present. Virtual Reality (VR) technology has numerous beneficial applications—from improved worker safety to increased efficiency.

Virtual Reality has created a fresh slant to predictive analytics. One of the disappointments of the world we live in is the uncertainty of outcomes. This is where predictive analytics comes into play. The knack to predict an outcome before it happens is tremendously valuable, and VR technology is making this much easier.

Finding a mistake in a product design could take weeks using conventual methods. But, if there can be a simulated interaction with the product via a headset such as the Oculus Rift, the problem, if there is one, can be recognized very quickly.

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Predictive analytics help companies to focus on what customers actually purchase, based on point-of-sale systems, the Internet and feedback from social media.

Manufacturers can use today’s information to create immediate demand forecasts, allowing for immediate adjustment of production and distribution to meet changing demands.

VR analytics delivers insights into the consumer's awareness. There are new opportunities of collecting behavioral user data during VR experiences and utilizing this data together with traditional data warehouse information. VR is the first of three visual computing trends that we will see in the next several years. VR will be followed by Augmented Reality (AR) and Ubiquitous Sensory Mixed Reality (USEMIR).

Computer and game graphics are driving the barriers of photorealism. Researchers and engineers are pulling graphics out of your television screen or computer display and integrating them into real-world environments. This new technology is called Augmented Reality. It blurs the line between what's real and what's computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell. AR is closer to the real world than VR.

Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists.

AR displays will look like a normal pair of glasses with informative graphics appearing in your field of view, and the audio will match whatever you see. These enhancements will be refreshed continually to reflect the movements of your head.

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AR involves a computer overlay on a person’s existing view.  


It’s not science fiction, AR is being used in manufacturing today. Instead of trying to guess what’s wrong with an individual part, the part can actually show if it’s within tolerance and even if it’s working correctly using a combination of the IoT and augmented reality. The part will not only tell if something is wrong, but will also show what is happening—or will happen—if it isn’t repaired or replaced, making it easier for engineers to do their jobs.

Engineers at Lockheed Martin, wearing AR glasses that use cameras, depth sensors, and motion sensors to overlay images onto the actual working setting, can see renderings of cables, bolts, parts, part numbers, and instructions on how to assemble a certain component. This new process increases the engineers’ precision to 96%, while working 30% faster on the F-35 fighter jet.

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Using AR techniques, an existing production location can be superimposed with virtual planning objects. Planning tasks can thus be proven without modeling the surrounding environment of the production site—thus the development cycle can be shortened.

Augmented Reality technologies have been introduced into manufacturing planning,  leading to a decrease in planning times, and an improvement of the quality of the planning results.

Known methods of planning are limited to a practical representation of planning where objects will be positioned, requiring a complete modeling of the production system. The high costs reduce the possible benefits of this type of planning. Using AR technology, an existing physical production environment can be superimposed with virtual planning objects. Planning can be validated without modeling the surrounding environment of the production site.

Manufacturers have used augmented reality to organize and optimise the location and flow of production lines; position automation lines, robots, production cells and people to make best use of productivity; operate and handle virtual tools and equipment; practice and train employees for the actual job; and plan around support pillars, lighting, heating and air-conditioning ducts.

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The use of Ubiquitous Sensory Mixed Reality environments allows users to practice situations that might be dangerous in a real environment. This approach has been effectively used for training in a variety of specialties, including health and safety, medical, fire, and industrial training. The results of USEMIR significantly improved a user’s skills in equivalent real-life scenarios.

To achieve those levels of immersive interaction capable of providing better training in real-life situations, we turn to Mixed Reality (MR) and VR where it has been shown that objects can be manipulated naturally and from a first-person perspective when the participants, position and movements are tracked.

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Immersion is largely achieved through visual, auditory, and occasionally, tactile displays. These displays detach users from their accustomed surroundings, giving the impression that the only objects existing around them are those rendered by the computer. In MR systems, users observe both the physical environment around them and the digital elements presented, using semitransparent displays.

In manufacturing, a MR system can indicate the name and attribution of parts by displaying virtual labels overlaying the objects. The system can guide an assembler, showing virtual arrows as to where the part goes into an assembly.

MR systems are designed to give their users the illusion that digital objects are in the same space as physical ones. For this impression of coexistence, the digital objects necessitate that they be precisely positioned into the real environment and aligned with the real objects. The precise real-time alignment of virtual and real components is a conclusive attribute of augmented reality systems.

From the old technology to the new, manufacturing is changing. 3D printing, robots and virtual reality are now becoming essential to successful manufacturing. Now, engineers have tools that were only a dream a decade ago to improve their product design, production layout and problem solving.



Len Calderone - Contributing Editor

Len contributes to this publication on a regular basis. Past articles can be found with an Article Search and his profile on our Associates Page

He also writes short stores that always have a surprise ending. These can be found at


Len Calderone
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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