Tony Stark, the protagonist in the Marvel Comics action hero film Iron Man, employs Augmented Reality to transform a real environment into a computer-generated hologram to create an interactive experience, allowing the fictional character to re-shape and manipulate objects and data points to create a different picture.
It might be difficult to see a connection between a movie and how this technology can be employed in the production of ground and amphibious vehicles. But it’s not a Hollywood fantasy. BAE Systems is bringing it to life as part of its advanced manufacturing process.
James Harvey, a strategic operations manager at the company, was looking for more effective and less-time consuming ways for camouflaging combat vehicles produced for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps as well as our international customers. Vehicles are historically painted using drawings and templates that outline camouflage patterns. But creating these templates is laborious, and when a painter goes to work, more workers are needed to hold the template in place. Camouflage patterns also change, meaning more templates needing to be created, adding more time.
“We were looking to limit movement of vehicles in and out of paint booths when painting a camouflage pattern,” Harvey said. “Previous tools restricted employees from drawing the pattern in confined spaces, and other methods were expensive and time consuming.
So we turned to our favorite comic book hero Tony Stark for inspiration.”
Harvey and his team began researching the potential of Augmented Reality for camouflage painting, and learned from other partners and within our manufacturing network how similar technology was being used to gain efficiencies in the manufacturing process.
“We began a partnership to ensure a path forward,” Harvey said. “BAE Systems is always looking for ways to make improvements in our manufacturing processes to better serve our customers by pursuing advanced and affordable solutions.”
Augmented reality is now being used in the paint and final processing stages to camouflage combat vehicles. By wearing special augmented reality glasses, painters can project and follow augmented reality camouflage patterns on the vehicles, reducing the need for cumbersome drawings and templates.
There’s no question the augmented reality tool is more effective and faster. We can now apply the camouflage patterns and paint in a fraction of the amount of time using the old method.
The capital investments BAE Systems is making in our manufacturing, such as with augmented reality, not only benefits the company but also our customer, by helping us keep pace with the demand they have for new vehicles as they work to modernize the fleets at a rapidly growing rate. The bottom line is that augmented reality increases output.
“Advanced tools like this help us meet increased production demands to the highest standards of quality,” Harvey said. “Overcoming past restraints to introduce new and advanced techniques represent a great path forward, and in this case, we are doing that with a couple sets of funky glasses.”