Over the last two years, the use of Augmented Reality (AR) in the workplace has increased significantly. From healthcare and education, to oil and gas and manufacturing, enterprises across a wide range of industries are now enhancing the ways they do business with AR technology. This is particularly true in the engineering and design space, where an increasing number of companies are applying AR tools to optimize product and facility development processes and improve project outcomes.
A few of the major benefits these companies are seeing from AR include:
Reduced Design and Development Costs
Using AR in lieu of traditional 2-D and 3-D models can reduce the cost of building a product and/or facility. This is largely because AR enables engineers and designers to work in an immersive environment where they can manipulate components, adjust tolerances and dimensions, check for compatibility, and better understand how certain designs and configurations will look and perform in the real world.
Performing these tasks in a digital setting costs virtually nothing and allows users to optimize designs without ever having to build a physical prototype. Additionally, because AR allows engineers and designers to work with a “to-scale” model of their facility or product without having to leave the office, costs associated with traveling for offsite meetings and facility walkthroughs can be substantially reduced.
Increased Collaboration And Stakeholder Engagement
When it comes to designing a complex product or facility, 2-D and 3-D model reviews often fail to engage owners and operators on a level that elicits detailed feedback, which increases the chance of running into costly, late-stage project changes. AR helps designers prevent this by grabbing stakeholders’ attention and allowing them to embark on their own personal tour of a facility or product. This leads to more effective communication between owners, operators, and contractors, which ultimately results in better designs and streamlined project execution. Specific examples of how AR can be used to collaborate with stakeholders include conducting product demos, training operators, and checking for operability and ergonomic placement of materials and components within a facility (Figure 1).
Figure 2: AR tools are helping engineering and design firms increase engagement and collaboration between stakeholders.
Attracting Outside Investment And Marketing
Aside from the many benefits AR provides with regards to technical aspects of product and facility design, many companies today are also using it as a powerful marketing tool. In the past, when looking to attract investment from outside groups, companies typically relied on PowerPoint presentations and videos to describe a new design or concept. Augmented Reality offers a much more engaging way to share the full experience of a product or design with potential investors, colleagues or management stakeholders. Many firms are also taking their AR setups from the office to tradeshows in an effort to differentiate themselves from competitors and show potential investors first-hand the benefits of working in a virtual environment.
Today, engineering and design firms looking to utilize AR in the workplace can choose between a wide range of platforms and technologies. When making decisions regarding a particular product setup or configuration, many new users focus their efforts on selecting items such as the head-mounted display, tracking and orientation system, type of software, and so on. However, one important aspect that often goes overlooked is the selection of smaller hardware components, such as the USB connection. One specific example of a product that can improve the performance of any AR platform is Molex’s USB Type C connector. Current rating of 5.0A on USB Type C connector offers 64 percent reduced charging time over a standard micro-USB 2.0 rating of 1.5A MAX. The throughput of the USB 3.1 Gen 2 type C solution allows a single port to handle 10Gbs, which is enough to simultaneously handle 4k uncompressed video at 3.5Gbps, 802.11AC Wi-Fi reality speed of 2.5Gbps, and an external HDD at 0.45Mbps. This enables users to power all the AR platform peripherals and systems through a single port, while leaving more than 3.5Gb/s available for other purposes..
Other ancillary hardware components critical to the operation of a high-performing AR configuration include I/O connectors, coaxial connectors, FFC/FPC connectors, and antennas.
In the coming years, the use of augmented reality in engineering and design will become increasingly prevalent. When choosing an AR configuration, the right option will ultimately be dictated by the specific needs of the user. In every use case, firms looking to deploy an AR system should engage early with product suppliers to ensure all hardware and electronic components are selected to fully exploit the capabilities of their AR setup.
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