AMRC signs ‘lighthouse’ deal with PTC

30 July 2020

Immersive software that enabled automotive and aerospace workers to make the rapid transition to building lifesaving ventilators will become accessible to UK manufacturers as the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) helps industry adopt augmented reality training solutions for reskilling and upskilling their workforces. 

The AMRC agreement with PTC, a tier one partner, is one of the largest ever deals for Vuforia® Expert Capture (VEC) software in the UK and will see the AMRC become a lighthouse demonstrator for a growing range of digital technologies and AR solutions for industry.

The agreement builds on the long-term relationship between the two organisations and follows the vital role VEC played in retraining operatives on new production lines to build more than 13,000 ventilators for the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium (VCUK).

VEC is an out-of-the-box digital solution from the US-based global technology company that allows tasks to be recorded using a wearable device and the content turned into step-by-step instructions for workers to follow to get a job done quickly and accurately the first time.

Professor Rab Scott, Head of Digital at the University of Sheffield AMRC, said Vuforia Expert Capture will be used to deliver upskilling and reskilling solutions for its aerospace partners, with the potential for much wider application into other sectors.

“Our involvement in VCUK gave us first-hand experience of the power of AR in helping to quickly set up new manufacturing lines safely by rapidly transferring production knowledge to different facilities.

The VCUK activity has really increased the exposure of AR as a viable tool set for the manufacturing enterprise and we expect to see a dramatic uptake in the technology on the shopfloor in the near future.

“It has the potential to transform future supply chains and this is something we wanted to explore in more detail by giving researchers, our existing manufacturing partners and SMEs easy access to VEC and other PTC technologies.

“We already have a number of projects where we think it will accelerate the deployment of solutions into manufacturing.”

PTC, a leading provider of industrial innovation technology, became a tier one partner of the AMRC in 2017, with its ThingWorx®  IoT platform helping connect machinery and devices at its Factory 2050 facility, the place where digital meets manufacturing.

This latest deal is one of the largest ever signed for Vuforia Expert Capture in the UK and will see the AMRC become a lighthouse demonstrator for its growing range of digital technologies and AR solutions for industry.

In addition to VEC, research engineers across the AMRC will also be able to maximise the capability of Vuforia Chalk, a remote assistance product that leverages AR to help employees collaborate in operational, maintenance and repair situations.

AR reduced the time taken to create the new supply chain by a number of weeks and also protected all the workers involved in the project by ensuring staff were not moving from site to site, reducing the risk of Covid-19 spreading.

The technology is like Facetime, with AR superpowers for industrial settings, with the emphasis on being easy to set up and use. David Grammer, UK Country Manager at PTC, said: “The high-profile nature of the VentilatorChallengeUK has really thrust Augmented Reality into the spotlight and proved that it is a technology that manufacturers can easily adopt and successfully implement now and not in five, ten or even twenty years’ time.

“Using Vuforia Expert Capture and Vuforia Chalk allowed us to parachute a virtual Smiths Medical manufacturing expert into new production lines, giving engineers who had never worked on ventilators before access to all the guidance and advice they required to complete the build.

“AR reduced the time taken to create the new supply chain by a number of weeks and also protected all the workers involved in the project by ensuring staff were not moving from site to site, reducing the risk of Covid-19 spreading."

He added: “We now want to increase the adoption of Augmented Reality and remote assistance in other manufacturing environments and the AMRC will provide a perfect gateway to engaging with research projects, new supply chains and in the development of new products.”

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