Newport News Shipbuilding, which has been building ships for the Navy almost since the company was founded in 1886, began to test augmented reality in 2013. Celar explained the technology is a way for employees to interact with the ship plans in real three-dimensional space.
“Augmented reality is the overlay of digital content onto the physical world right in front of you,” the engineer said. In a video shown during the talk, shipyard employees used tablets with cameras to view an overlay of ship blueprints on the real construction work.
The company is deploying what it calls “collaborative robots” that work alongside human workers on the line, instead of cordoned-off traditional robotic elements. Garstenauer said the plant uses three such robots, and the process will become more affordable and practical in the future.
Stihl is one of the biggest manufacturing companies in the area, employing more than 2,100 people in Virginia Beach. The company is also in the middle of an 80,000-square-foot, $25-million expansion project, which will be completed by 2019.