In recent years, Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged as a promising and innovative technology revolutionising one industry after another. Despite being most often associated with manufacturing, marketing, or retail, AR is also helping Heating, Ventilation, A/C, and Refrigeration (HVAC&R) professionals meet the growing demands of the industry.
AR is becoming increasingly prevalent and utilised in various applications and functionalities in the HVAC&R industry. It has changed how project managers, maintenance technicians, and engineers design and install products and train staff in the field.
What Is Augmented Reality (AR)?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a live technology that uses computer-generated sensory input to enhance the user’s perception of the real world by superimposing images, sounds, and data over the user’s real-world environment.
This overlay of virtual content changes our perspective of reality, which can be experienced through mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. For example, with augmented reality, we can consult manuals just by pointing our camera at a device or product.
This technology has been mainly used in gaming and entertainment, but recently, it has caught on in other industries such as construction and HVAC&R.
Advantages of Augmented Reality (AR) in the HVAC&R Industry
To experience AR, you need a phone, tablet, AR headset, and an app that supports it. The app needs to determine your location and which direction you are looking at to superimpose 3D models on top of real-world objects.
What does that mean for HVAC&R? Here are five ways augmented reality can improve the HVAC&R industry:
The HVAC&R sector relies heavily on visualisation to provide detailed information about how a system will function and what is needed for proper installation. AR can help with all these things by providing an accurate 3D representation of a system or product layout.
Product Experience at Home
By using AR, users can get a live view of how a product would look when installed in their home before they make their buying decision. This allows them to avoid making costly mistakes and save money on installation costs by getting it right the first time.
AR allows technicians and engineers to stay more connected with their colleagues by sharing what they see in their field of view with other team members. It boosts efficiency by providing real-time information on demand from work sites or remote locations such as a control room or office space.
From design to installation, AR has helped streamline entire processes by taking out paperwork and reducing errors. In addition, AR tools also enable contractors to find better equipment matching their requirements and budgets, contributing to reducing costs and speeding up processes!
HVAC&R training is expensive, time-consuming, and can even be dangerous at times. AR offers a new way to train novices for jobs in the HVAC&R industry. By using a digital overlay, AR allows trainees to learn faster by interacting and experimenting with equipment, thus making the training time-efficient and safe.
Augmented Reality (AR) Applications in the HVAC&R Industry
AR can make the invisible visible in HVAC&R systems and products by projecting digital information into reality. It assists HVAC&R engineers and technicians in various exciting modalities. AR is slowly becoming an integral part of the industry, from product design and training to fieldwork and engineering.
Designing a new building system can be time-consuming and expensive, whereas the finished product is difficult to visualise. AR facilitates building systems design by providing clients with a realistic view of their desired product. Designers and engineers can view a full-scale model of their design and get a better understanding of the design and installation processes.
By utilising an AR tool for architects, HVAC&R designers and engineers can convert their designs to interactive, scaled 3D models using augmented reality and photorealistic renderings, enabling designers to enhance their ability to view the components in context before implementation.
So, designers can present their designs without using expensive physical space and resources. This can prove extremely useful in some retrofit projects, which enable architects or technicians to attach a project to an existing building without disrupting current operations or occupants.
In addition, both stakeholders and clients can take part and better visualise the design process since it facilitates full-scale visualisation. This gives them more control over the design process and helps them understand how the building will work.
As a result, designers can make amendments at any point during the design-development without redesigning the entire system from scratch. This also can reduce the costs and time for design and construction.
The HVAC&R industry has seen increased use and demand for AR devices and apps after the 2008 recession, especially after professionals in the field witnessed the vast and efficient applications of AR in business.
HVAC&R contractors found themselves inclined to explore AR’s potential in prefabrication since the cost of this technology proved to be much less expensive than other technologies due to its limited need for resources.
AR can transform the prefabrication of HVAC&R equipment by limiting reworks and improving efficiency through sequencing tools that provide step-by-step guidance during the project installation and implementation phase, which are powerful resources for contractors.
For example, process diagrams and interactive assembly sequences can be created using Microsoft PowerPoint combined with augmented reality to show the HVAC&R contractor a step-by-step guide on installing the HVAC&R assemblies.
Technicians can also use AR for resources like repair manuals and schematics to ensure a quality installation. Consequently, this virtual approach eliminates rework since detailed instructions are provided for each assembly, reducing on-site installation time and production lead times.
Operations and Maintenance
Relevant AR applications are now being developed to support the HVAC&R industry’s Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) processes to enable workers to keep track of assets that have been inspected, maintenance jobs that have been completed, assets that need attention, and overdue jobs.
By incorporating AR into inspections, maintenance managers can make better decisions about what needs to be done and when, which contributes to saving time and money and improving the company’s risk management.
As for technicians, some struggle to maintain schedules for on-site repairs since they need help identifying which components require attention quickly. This is where augmented reality comes in, as it puts operational data into context to detect wear, tear, and usage of pipes, ducts, and other industrial equipment.
By scanning QR codes assigned for each asset, technicians can view not only general information such as equipment ID, serial number, or service intervals but also the condition of all parts, irrespective of location, on a map in real-time, as well as data on temperature, mechanical pressure, and all other operational parameters to detect any external factors that may be affecting a certain part of a system.
The use of augmented reality is rising in the HVAC&R industry, with many businesses constantly seeking ways to improve their efficiency and productivity. By providing a full-scale view of a model, AR makes troubleshooting easier and maintains coordination of building systems on point. As its numerous applications slowly unfold, AR will undoubtedly become the driving factor in the industry.