- By Dijam Panigrahi
- September 28, 2022
Technologies powering industry 4.0 seem limitless, with exceptional results already showing in higher customer satisfaction and a stronger bottom line.
Industry 4.0 is drastically reshaping the way businesses produce, improve and fulfill their products. Manufacturers across multiple industries like aerospace, automotive, medical, energy, technology and construction are developing and integrating new technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and analytics, AR/VR and AI and machine learning into their production facilities and throughout their operations.
How is Industry 4.0 benefitting companies?
Dubbed “smart factories," these facilities are equipped today with sophisticated sensors, embedded software and AI-powered robotics that collect and analyze data and allow for better decision making. What’s more, additional efficiencies are being realized when inputs from production operations are combined with operational data from ERP, supply chain, customer service and other enterprise systems to generate even more visibility and insight from previously siloed information.
This digital-intensive approach has resulted in increased automation, better predictive maintenance, self-optimization of process improvements and improved customer service levels.
All of this has translated into what is today known as the fourth industrial revolution for manufacturers, engineers, design firms and businesses across vertical markets. Everything revolves around the collection of large amounts of big data from sensors on the factory floor, which provides real-time visibility of production assets. This also allows for machines and tools to perform predictive maintenance to minimize equipment downtime and scale efficiencies further.
Industry 4.0 requires advanced, virtual tech
The use of advanced IoT devices in these smart factories leads to improved productivity and better overall quality. What’s more, AI-driven visualization combined with AR/VR virtual technologies have replaced manual inspection procedures in many cases, which in turn has reduced manufacturing errors resulting in a reduction of losses toward the bottom line.
A lot of this is made possible with minimal investments, where quality control representatives set up mobile devices to the cloud to observe manufacturing processes from virtually anywhere. By applying machine learning algorithms, manufacturers can detect errors immediately, rather than at later stages when repair work is more expensive.
However, the real advantage comes from more virtualized AR/VR immersive technologies.
Virtual reality allows an engineer to wear a headset that fully delves into a new world or environment, some that even mimic the real world. The user is given both a visual and audible experience that is meant to replicate a real-world setting in a manufacturing environment.
Augmented reality is similar in concept, but it also displays digital content in the real world. Imagine an automotive manufacturer whereby an engineer holds up an iPad in front of a car being designed to see virtual specs of a vehicle’s design layout or various engine spec options.
The right Immersive mixed reality experience for Industry 4.0 requires a precise and persistent fusion of the real and virtual worlds. This means rendering complex models and scenes in photorealistic detail, rendered at the correct physical location (with respect to both the real and virtual worlds) with the correct scale, and accurate pose. Think of the accuracy and precise nature required in leveraging AR/VR to design, build or repair components of an airline engine, or an advanced surgical device used in medical applications.
This is achieved today by using discrete GPUs from one or more servers and delivering the rendered frames wirelessly or remotely to the head mounted displays (HMDs) such as the Microsoft HoloLens and the Oculus Quest.
The need for 3D & AI in immersive mixed reality
One of the key requirements for Industry 4.0 mixed reality applications is to precisely overlay on an object its model or the digital twin. This helps in providing work instructions for assembly and training, and to catch any errors or defects in manufacturing. The user can also track the object(s) and adjust the rendering as the work progresses.
Enterprise-level manufacturers are leveraging 3D environments and AI technology into their immersive mixed reality design/build projects.
Deep learning-based 3D AI allows users to identify 3D objects of arbitrary shape and size in various orientations with high accuracy in the 3D space. This approach is scalable with any arbitrary shape and is amenable to use in enterprise use cases requiring rendering overlay of complex 3D models and digital twins with their real-world counterparts.
Working in cloud environments is critical
Industry 4.0 manufacturers should be cautious in how they design and deploy these technologies, because there is great difference in the platform they are built on and maximized for use.
Even though technologies like AR/VR have been in use for several years, many manufacturers have deployed virtual solutions that are built upon an on-premise environment, where all the technology data is stored locally.
On-premise AR/VR infrastructures limit the speed and scalability needed for today’s virtual designs, and it limits the ability to conduct knowledge sharing between organizations that can be critical when designing new products and understanding the best way for virtual buildouts.
Industry 4.0 manufacturers today are overcoming these limitations by leveraging cloud-based (or remote server based) AR/VR platforms powered by distributed cloud architecture and 3D vision-based AI. These cloud platforms provide the desired performance and scalability to drive innovation in the industry at speed and scale.
The world of manufacturing is rapidly changing before our eyes. Technologies powering industry 4.0 seem limitless, with exceptional results already showing in higher customer satisfaction and a stronger bottom line.
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