Everyone can see the advantages of bringing relevant documents, diagrams, pictures and expert advice to front-line mechanics as they work. The questions have always been about how to do it economically and practically.
Augmented reality (AR) is one way, and it is getting a lot more practical, as well as flexible in what it can do, as well as more affordable in implementation. For example, PTC’s Vuforia line of AR solutions is improving and expanding, as are the devices it can be used on.
Vuforia’s Studio product can show mechanics how to disassemble, repair and reassemble complex parts while they are working. 3D images of components can be pulled apart and put together, all based on computer assisted design (CAD) files from components OEMs. Drag and drop tools and JAVA instructions make it easy to develop AR assistance. A number of large aircraft OEMs have been using Studio for several years to help staff in manufacturing parts, and it should be an easy transfer to the shop floor for repair workers. Studio images can be displayed on tablet PCs or wearable devices.
Suppose a more personal touch is necessary. PTC’s new Vuforia Expert Capture can take video of a veteran mechanic as he or she goes through the troubleshooting and repair steps on an especially tough defect. The video is then uploaded to editors for trimming, stitching and editing into a perfect tutorial for novice mechanics, taking them through the same steps as if the veteran is standing right at their shoulders.
In this case, young mechanics would get their expert help from wearable goggles, such as RealWear’s HMT-1 or Microsoft’s new Hololens 2. The first is very robust and comes with a huge memory, the second is much more comfortable than Hololens 1 and is location-sensitive, so the expert’s help is guided by the novice’s movement around the aircraft or system. And while Expert Capture needs the expert, it does not require any CAD files, so might be used for older equipment designed without CAD methods.