How 5G is transforming manufacturing and construction with augmented reality

How 5G is transforming manufacturing and construction with augmented reality.

The potential benefits of augmented reality (AR) technologies —often deployed as smart glasses, tablets, and other mobile devices —are quickly increasing in industries like manufacturing, construction, and aerospace.

Critical production machine failures are a common occurrence in large manufacturing facilities. In the past, bringing the unit back online would require scheduling an appointment with a repair technician, resulting in at least a day of downtime for the entire assembly line and a tremendous cost for the business.

However, the way manufacturers react to such a momentary crisis may change with the spreading utilization of new remote assistance technology powered by 5G. For example, by wearing smart glasses, a worker can remotely connect via videoconference with a senior technician. Using the live video feed, the expert can share equipment diagrams and point a digital marker in the worker’s field of view to guide them through the repair. Remote assistance for simple fixes and repairs allows facilities to get back up and running quickly or expedite the spare parts order process to minimize downtime.

The potential benefits of augmented reality (AR) technologies —often deployed as smart glasses, tablets, and other mobile devices —are quickly increasing in industries like manufacturing, construction, and aerospace.

Supporting AR in manufacturing operations.

AR devices can process a significant amount of data in real time. While this technology has existed for quite a few years, adoption of AR in manufacturing at scale requires 5G and edge computing. The low latency available with 5G allows for real-time communication between the AR device and the web, creating a much better experience.

Take the AR developer Taqtile, for instance. Taqtile —a participant in the 5G Open Innovation Lab co-founded by T-Mobile —has an application that uses smart glasses to provide step-by-step instructions for the maintenance of production equipment. Another example of AR in manufacturing: Aircraft maker Airbus worked with Accenture to develop AR-enabled smart glasses that provide real-time data to workers that help them furnish airplane cabins more accurately —without the use of a manual.

According to a whitepaper by Aberdeen, manufacturers that use AR are achieving more than 30 percent greater year-over-year reductions in maintenance costs and production downtime relative to companies that don’t use AR.

AR in manufacturing can facilitate the advanced technical support required as manufacturing equipment grows more complex and skilled workers become more scarce. With rapidly evolving equipment technologies, AR enables access to the most up-to-date specifications that workers need to operate and maintain machines effectively and efficiently.

According to a whitepaper by Aberdeen, manufacturers that use AR are achieving more than 30% greater year-over-year reductions in maintenance costs and production downtime relative to companies that don’t use AR.

Because AR uses large amounts of data, it requires networks with extremely low latency (minimal delays) and rapid data transfer speeds. Reliable 5G networks provide these critical capabilities. With a 5G connection, video-based assistance or training does not need to be preloaded on the AR device. Instead, it can be transmitted to workers in real time as they perform tasks.

Streamlining walkthroughs, trainings, and repairs using AR in construction.

Powerful AR applications are emerging in many other industries beyond manufacturing. In large commercial construction and infrastructure projects, managers are using AR-enabled smart glasses to superimpose 3D digital models of completed AR building plans on the real-world site. In connected jobsite walkthroughs, they can assess how the building’s features fit with the site, informing adjustments to the model before construction begins. When construction is in progress, workers can use the same AR application to catch errors, identify design improvements, and complete safety inspections.

Ultra-low-latency 5G and a broad bandwidth are prerequisites for real-time uploading and downloading of the very large 3D model files. Latency issues can cause the 3D model overlays to drift in the user’s field of view. According to a recent survey by IDC, construction company executives are getting on board with the need to upgrade their networks. More than 70% of construction company executives who responded to IDC have deployed or plan to deploy a 5G construction approach in the next one to two years.

As in manufacturing, training and technical assistance are key AR applications in construction. Smart glasses can simulate the safe use of equipment and overlay detailed instructions on a work area to help workers implement complex, measurement-intensive tasks with precision and accuracy. Additionally, as dump trucks, cement mixers, graders, and other construction vehicles convert from gas-powered to electric, AR can help train mechanics in new repair and maintenance procedures for the tractor units that haul these vehicles.

Timberline Communications, a communications infrastructure company, is using Taqtile’s AR software and running it on T-Mobile 5G networks to execute upgrades and maintenance at T-Mobile’s cell sites. Wearing AR glasses, Timberline technicians view instruction overlays and service checklists and receive remote assistance from experts.

Optimizing complex airplane part repairs.

In the aviation space, AR can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of mechanics, which are a scarce and expensive resource. The technology can be particularly beneficial in the repair of engines and other complex parts. Mechanics can use AR to access manuals while fixing parts in real time or connect remotely with a master mechanic at a major aviation hub for technical assistance. AR can be used for maintenance activities between flights and for more in-depth, scheduled maintenance (i.e., base maintenance).

Occasionally, a mechanic may discover a technical problem that grounds an entire aviation fleet and needs urgent resolution. AR offers an efficient way to transmit training materials to an entire 5G workforce of geographically dispersed mechanics so they know how to correct the problem.

Major aircraft maintenance companies like Lufthansa Technik are applying AR for maintenance assistance and training. The company has also set up 5G networks to test advanced applications, such as virtual, collaborative inspections of engine parts.

T-Mobile offers prime 5G spectrum for AR.

T-Mobile for Business is ready with America’s largest and fastest 5G network to support the dreamers that will make the future a reality.

Industry AR applications are a key area of focus for T-Mobile as it deploys 5G networks across America. Of all the national wireless carriers, T-Mobile has the largest footprint of deployed mid-band and low-band spectrum for 5G. Since each band offers different attributes and advantages, having spectrum diversity enables T-Mobile to support AR in manufacturing, construction, aviation and many other industries with unique needs.

In construction, for instance, low-band is particularly useful because it easily passes through structures made of concrete and steel. Additionally, low-band cell sites can cover hundreds of square miles, providing 5G coverage in remote greenfield construction sites.

The world of AR continues to grow with new inventions that leverage the technology. The next big idea that will further revolutionize the manufacturing and construction industries is just around the corner. Those innovations wouldn’t be possible without a reliable connection to power the way. T-Mobile for Business is ready with America’s largest and fastest 5G network to support the dreamers that will make the future a reality.

For more information about how T-Mobile 5G is clearing the way for augmented reality in construction, manufacturing, and beyond, read 5G and the Future of Connected Cars. Or to position your business for success as you navigate the opportunities created by the Infrastructure Bill, feel free to call one of our experts at 855-521-3684.

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