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It is not surprising that the aerospace and defense industry exists at a higher plane of manufacturing. The components and end products being assembled must endure intense forces and pressures, are expected to perform without failure, and even the slightest mistake comes with extreme safety risks.

To meet these extraordinary demands, aerospace firms have developed highly technical and complex manufacturing processes that require significant training. Augmented reality (AR) can help improve these processes, from reducing task and training times to increasing accuracy and technician performance. The results include faster processes, fewer errors and reduced risk.

Tasks that are relatively mundane and inexpensive in other industries can be enormously expensive in the aerospace industry. Processes like torque applications, fastener attachments and drilling must be executed perfectly or will require costly rework or repair.

To avoid these costs and delays, extensive manuals are created and methodical processes defined. These types of applications are where AR shines and where the potential savings contribute to a high ROI.

While the resulting ROI from just a single task can be significant, the cost of labor and time are just two of the benefits AR can deliver.

Additional benefits of the technology include reducing or eliminating rework, improving accuracy and reducing downstream costs and potential safety risks. When you add it all up, it is easy to recognize AR’s value.

To provide some real-world perspective, aerospace vehicles typically contain thousands of miles of wire, requiring many fasteners and clips—all with precise attachment points. Simply marking the location of these attachment points can take weeks.

Lockheed Martin is using augmented reality to enable both a faster and more accurate location of the attachment points. A process that originally required eight shifts and two technicians has now been reduced to just 2.5 hours and a single technician.

AR Makes Anyone an Expert With Less Training

Training times can be lengthy in aerospace applications given the potential consequences in cost, safety and time.

Safety is an especially critical component in this industry, which adds additional pressure to perform tasks correctly. This need for “information overhead” further increases the focus on training to ensure technicians have the expertise and access to information to perform each individual task accurately. AR streamlines knowledge transfer by giving technicians the information they need when and where they need it. Instant and contextual access to information and instructions enables technicians to work without second-guesses and without work stoppages to refer to manuals or drawings. Faster training via AR also accelerates ramp-up so new technicians get to work in less time. Lastly, AR’s process traceability can surface opportunities for additional improvements in efficiency and accuracy.

Lockheed Martin first began exploring the benefits of AR during production of the Orion spacecraft.

Using Scope AR’s WorkLink platform to create AR work instructions for a drilling application, Lockheed Martin was able to reduce touch labor by 35 percent and further reduce technician training and ramp-up time by 85 percent.

In another Lockheed Martin use case, threaded fasteners require precise torque loads to enable the best performance while avoiding damage to the fastened materials and the fastener itself. Using AR, the required data is put directly in the view of technicians to reduce a torque application process from six weeks to two weeks for an ultimate touch labor savings of 50 percent and a significant reduction in training time.

AR Becomes Mainstream

AR is already returning real value across the aerospace industry. Companies large and small are turning to AR to reduce costs while simultaneously increasing safety and reducing risk. It lessens training and process times while improving accuracy and quality. While the cost of a mistake can be enormous, simply reducing the costs of everyday training, tasks, rework and more can justify the benefits of AR.