How Re-Using S1000D content supports Augmented Reality

What is Augmented Reality?

For most of us, Augmented Reality (AR) is a chance to play around on mobile devices, to catch small creatures, or for our kids to send funny pictures to their friends.

It enables you to view interactive, reality-based information in a real-world environment. Overlaying this digital content gives you an in-situ perspective of the information (even if that information is just a giant panda chewing on bamboo in your backyard through Google 3D animals).

Yet AR is infinitely more powerful than this.

AR is regarded as the next stage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) revolution for connecting products, people, and service.

Aerospace & Defense organizations are adopting AR to improve service and maintenance of platforms. But if you are involved in the creation, management, and delivery of service information for these platforms, how do you get from where you are today to where you need to be to implement AR , and what are the real benefits?

Where did Augmented Reality originate?

The concept of AR and term Augmented Reality originated at Boeing back in 1990.

Tom Caudell, an employee at Boeing Computer Services Research, was asked to create a replacement for Boeing’s system of large plywood boards with wiring instructions for each aircraft being built.

Caudell and his co-worker David Mizell proposed a head-mounted display for construction workers that superimposed the position of cables through the eyewear and projected them onto multipurpose, reusable boards. Instead of having to use different boards for each aircraft, the custom wiring instructions could instead be worn by the workers themselves.

This was a scientific experiment by Boeing, and the concept of AR remained a scientist’s project until computing power could catch up to make it a viable option for the wider industrial world.

The processing power of handheld or wearable devices has evolved to a stage now that makes it possible, and cost effective, to create and consume AR information.

Why use Augmented Reality?

In the Aerospace and Defense sector, manufacturers are developing complex products in relatively small volumes and the engineers supporting these systems are performing highly skilled and sporadic maintenance procedures.

Ideally, the platform will be serviced where it was manufactured, supported by teams that designed them in the first place. However, with the lifespan of naval vessels and fighter jets at around 30-40 years and their locations fluid, the teams supporting these systems often change multiple times.

Using service and maintenance instructions delivered by AR means users can be trained as they service the equipment in a 3-dimensional context using step-by-step guides. Visual instructions provided by AR give the user full confidence to the user that they are performing the task per the process set out by the manufacturer. And these visual guides remove the complication of understanding the instructions when English is not the user's first language.

By following the AR instructions, users can sign off each stage of the procedure or identify parts that need to be replaced without needing specific in-depth knowledge of the product or part. The results are improved first time fix rates, reduced repair time, and ultimately reduced total cost of servicing.

Why embrace augmented reality now?

For almost 30 years, technology had held back the use of AR for service since Boeing’s initial project.

Every part of the AR experience needed to be custom written from the ground up, and changes meant modifications to the code. You needed a team of developers dedicated to supporting AR, which simply was not a cost-effective solution.

Technology has moved in significantly and today you can re-use your existing CAD content from your Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) to create AR experiences quickly and easily. Leveraging this engineering content ensures that the AR output is 100% accurate.

Software like PTC's Vuforia Studio is designed to be used by CAD engineers and technical authors so there is no need for specialist coding skills to create AR experiences. End users access the information via an app or Smart Eyewear, so there is also very little training required to understand how to consume the data.

How do you implement Augmented Reality?

So technology has caught up and complex A&D platforms are perfect for adopting AR in service and maintenance procedures, but how do you implement AR?

To create a beneficial AR experience for maintainers, you need to feed it with an accurate flow of data from the CAD design right through to the critical service content.

In the A&D space, an increasing number of projects are requiring service content in the ASD S1000D standard. This means that all supporting information for systems such as seats, landing systems, and engines need to be S1000D compliant, putting this content in a common standard that can be shared industry wide.

In many organizations, engineering, service, and parts information is stored and managed on multiple systems. This separation reduces the quality and integrity of the S1000D service content, which then compromises or impairs any AR experiences created from it.

To address this gap, GPSL's S1000D for PTC Windchill maintains associativity between source CAD engineering data and parts and service content to accurately support products for the decades of use they will have in the field.

Having the relevant assembly instructions, spare parts lists, and service guides is essential when creating AR experiences. S1000D for PTC Windchill ensures the correct content is being used to generate these AR maintenance tasks.

By having these connected systems, you enable the Digital Thread and ensure efficient and reliable processes and in place to support your AR experiences.

What's the Return On Investment?

The results of connecting systems in this way are far reaching.

  • Better connected processes make it quicker and easier than ever before to create the S1000D service information needed for AR experiences
  • Moving to visual instructions for maintenance tasks gives the user full confidence to the user that they are performing the task as per the process set out by the manufacturer.
  • And ultimately, the cost of maintaining a platform and the platform downtime throughlife are reduced.

And it is not just the A&D sector that is recognizing the benefits of S1000D for AR, the rail industry is also onboard!

Engineers at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) are shining a light on the range of growing Industry 4.0 technology solutions that can unlock productivity, quality, and sustainability improvements for maintenance activities in rail.

AR is one of the stars of their smart-assisted maintenance demonstrator that uses S1000D data from PTC Windchill to deliver operator guidance, empowering those carrying out a maintenance task with up-to-date, in-situ information.

Arthur Kershaw, senior project engineer at the AMRC, says the technologies powering the demonstrator have potential to unlock big benefits for both smaller businesses and OEMs looking to advance their MRO capabilities and improve operational efficiencies.


The ability to augment the users’ view with CAD data and information that then shows how to assemble, disassemble or change over equipment, whatever it might be; those types of activities lend themselves very neatly to the augmented reality space.

Arthur Kershaw, senior project engineer at the AMRC
Still not convinced?

Want to understand more about using S1000D content to support AR experiences?

You can read more about the AMRC Maintenance 4.0 cell here.

The Project uses PTC’s Vuforia software technology to underpin the AR experiences and GPSL's S1000D for PTC Windchill to manage and deliver the critical S1000D technical information.

For more information about the AMRC project please get in touch with our team to talk through your specific requirements.

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