Do I need 3D models to use AR-enabled work instructions?

No. Not always, it depends on the specific solution that you are using. Some AR-enabled work instruction solutions do require starting with a 3D model.  Here are a few things to consider regarding 3D models 

A 3D model is a digital representation of a three-dimensional object. In the context of AR-enabled work instructions, those objects are often a machine, a piece of equipment, or vehicle. They can be animated to show how parts move or how things are assembled or disassembled. More sophisticated models can even reflect real-time data from internet of things (IoT) sensors to represent real-time state and status of equipment as an example, a 3D model of a machine could turn red when a temperature sensor is reading above an acceptable range (sometimes these models animated with real-time data are referred to as a digital twin). Typically, 3D models can be manipulated by rotating or resizing or exploding so they can be used to fully and visually understand the physical objects that they represent. 

There are many software solutions that can be used to create a 3D model. Typically, these programs are separate from work instructions solutions. Some companies create these models internally while others use service providers or 3D experts to create these models. The work to create these models can be quite extensive – depending on the complexity of the physical object, or the intended use of the model. But the value obtained from these models can be significant. 

3D models can be used with AR-enabled work instruction solutions in many helpful ways. 

  • Spatial awareness 3D models allow workers to view parts of a machine or piece of equipment that are often not accessible. This could be internal workings, the back or top of a large machine. These views provide more context to help workers complete maintenance or operational procedures. 

  • Animated context Animated 3D models can show how machines are taken apart (or more importantly, put back together). As an example – a new worker performing a maintenance procedure on a vehicle may benefit from using an animated 3D model to view which parts need to be removed to change a filter. 

  • Virtual training 3D models can provide a virtual machine to practice with, train on, or even demo.  Perhaps the physical object is too large to move, or located in a secure or remote location, or simply too valuable to take out of production for training. A 3D model can be used to virtually run through an operational procedure or even simulate a trouble-shooting scenario 

Different AR-enabled work instructions will have varying levels of support for 3D models. Some don’t support them at all; some may even require 3D models as a starting point. Solutions supporting 3D models will typically have required characteristics such as size or resolution. So, modifying an existing model may be necessary before using with a work instruction solution. Once embedded into a solution, users will have a varying degree of manipulation available to them.  Some solutions may simply offer the ability to view a model while others will allow models to be rotated, resized, and moved. These variations will determine what work will need to be to the model to use them most effectively. 

3D models enhance AR-enabled work instructions in many significant ways but will likely add some level of development and configuration to implementing a work-instruction solution. So, solutions that support but do not require 3D models are often a good choice – allowing for 3D models to be added after the initial phase of implementation and usage. 

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