Augmented Reality in Mechanical Engineering: Complex, technical training goes immersive

Augmented reality (AR) overlays a digital layer over the real world, to provide additional information. This can be valuable in industries like mechanical engineering, with possible applications across specializations, with the ability to enable complex technical training.  

A recent Forrester report predicts that “by 2025, nearly 10% of the US workforce will be wearing smart glasses”, since “companies such as GE, Boeing and Volkswagen have publicly stated they are seeing productivity gains and quality improvements”. 

Here are some important applications of AR technology to the training needs of the mechanical engineering domain.

Training for Engineering Design 

Designing heavy equipment is a challenging task as even a minor inaccuracy – such as a 0.1mm error in the diameter of a screw – can have major consequences when operationalized. 

When you train engineers on how to design using a computer, visualizations are in two dimensions and scaled to fit the screen size.

With AR, on the other hand, the third dimension comes into play, and better visualization capabilities to help designers understand the utility and usability of the product, at real size in the real world. 

Training in accuracy of design also becomes easier through the use of AI-powered AR tools. By ‘placing’ the design in the real world and making design modifications, you can simulate how the equipment will respond to external stimuli and make modifications as required. 

Before the availability of AR tools, such validation would require the creation of prototypes to be tested in various environments – a very challenging process for learners or inexperienced designers.

Training for Installation and Assembly

AR simplifies assembly and installation, as it makes instructional process more visual and direct. 

The parts or components of the final product can be scanned by an AR application which can then provide step-by-step instruction, including animated overlay representations. Visual recognition of the components can help with checking whether they’re incorrectly wired or put together.

Graphics of the final assembled product can also be superimposed over the actual product during the process, helping to build the expertise of technicians, and eliminating the need for trainers or instructors in the field.

Training for Maintenance and Support

How do you train maintenace and technical support personnel to manage complicated equipment and components?

The first step is bug identification. An AR app can be used to help trainees run diagnostic tests, comparing real performance and appearance against expected parameters, based on comparison against a calibrated reference system and virtual blueprints.

Such an application can be used to scan equipment to examine various production metrics, including efficiency, speed, temperature, sound, etc. Through visual analysis, the app can also help personnel learn how to identify mechanical problems such as broken wires, gaskets or screws, missing or loose parts, and so on.

An AR application of this kind can be integrated with AI to deliver maintenance recommendations. If a screw is loose, for example, the tool can be developed to instruct the engineer on how to open the chassis, identify the loose screw and tighten it. Similarly, engineers on the floor can be guided to make other minor and major support changes based on the requirement.

These are just a few use-cases for augmented reality in training personnel for mechanical engineering applications. If any of these struck a chord with you, or if you’d like to discuss other ideas and develop a new AR-powered application for your engineering firm, we’d love to talk!