AR Industrial Applications: Defense Engineering

What is this? I chatted with Evan, Operations Modeling and Simulation Engineer at Northrop Grumman about engineering use cases for the Hololens. 

His opening remarks: It’s often a struggle integrating new technology into large-scale manufacturers due to adherence to strict methods and processes. Finding/molding problems into good use cases for a given new technology can be challenging. It’s much easier to start with the problem and find/mold a good solution than the other way around. The challenge is helping engineers and operations leadership understand what modern solutions exist.



Evan’s Take: In the context of engineering, to show the Hololen’s capabilities in relation to the (DOD acquisition lifecycle) lifecycle stages of a product might be a high value strategy.

Image result for dod engineering systemTemporary Minimum Risk Route (TMRR): How do we design a product that fulfills mission requirements? This can take the form of:

  • visualizing the designs, making sure they’re feasible (i.e. are wires getting pinched?). Uncovering design flaws you’ll discover later in the form of defects during manufacturing. Making sure the design is producible (DFM – Design for Manufacturability).
  • communicating to the customer: In that stage of the lifecycle it’s important to be able to communicate your designs to the customer to demonstrate technical maturity.
    • inspect the product: this part of the product is called “XYZ” can then be exploded.


Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD): At this stage the customer (NG) cares about “how are we going to build it”

  • tooling design: visualizing the product sitting in the tools or workstands that will be used in production
  • visualizing the ergonomics people are going to have to deal with for example are the clearances sufficient to *screw in the screw, so ergonomics*
  • visualizing the factory flow, the customer (NG’s customer) would also be interested in seeing the proposed factory flow to build confidence. It’s becoming more common to see this as a line item in contracts (Contract Data Requirements List or CDRL)

Subsequent steps in Production & Deployment are:

  • Low rate initial production (LRIP)
  • Full rate production (FRP)


Who the customer is: Mechanics on the factory floor using hololens for work instructions, saw a lot of interest at Raytheon and NG to use Virtual Work instructions overlayed onto the hardware (Google Glass, Light Guide Systems, etc). In a more mature program that’s in production, the mechanic, or the electrician on the factory floor would be the end user. Today, they look away from the product where work instructions are pulled up on the computer. Their instructions might be several feet away from the work, hopefully they’ve interpreted the instructions well so they don’t cause a defect. Operators work from memory or don’t follow work instructions if it’s too cumbersome to do so. DCMA (Customer’s oversight) issues corrective action requests (CAR’s) to the contractor when operators don’t appear to be following work instructions (i.e. the page they’re on doesn’t match the step in the process they’re currently working on, or worse, they don’t have the instructions pulled up). Getting too many of these is really bad. So where AR is really useful, is when AR is overlaying instructions on the product as it’s built. Care should be given to the Manufacturing Engineer’s workflow for creating and approving work instructions, work instruction revisions, etc. Long-term, consideration probably needs to be given to integration with the Manufacturing execution system (MES) and possibly many other systems (ERP, PLM, etc.).

The Hololens tech is seemingly a ways away from that––seamlessly identifying the hardware regardless of physical position/orientation as well as making it easy for manufacturing engineers to author compliant work instructions

Another consideration, for any of the above use cases in the defense industry, is wireless. Most facilities will not accommodate devices that transmit or receive signals over any form of wireless. For the last use case, tethering a mechanic to a wired AR device is inhibiting.