A couple weeks ago, PTC held their user conference, LiveWorx, in Boston. While the IoT is interesting and compelling for a number of reasons, many manufacturers are still trying to figure out how such technological capabilities translate to business benefit. Going to the event, I was looking at how their vision for IoT would mesh with the needs of the current users of PTC’s CAD product Creo. I found one technology demonstration that bridged the gap. Specifically, the combination of Creo Illustrate and Vuforia offer an incredibly easy short to creating and delivering 3D service instructions to remote field employees.

Capabilities of Creo Illustrate and Vuforia

There are a lot of technological capabilities involved here. But, at a high level, it is straightforward. Service planners can develop 3D instructions and publish them to the cloud. Then, after scanning a ThingMark on the physical product, remote field agents can play the 3D instruction overlaid on the physical product.

Describing the Details

The best way to communicate what those capabilities do is to describe how they were demonstrated.

  1. Creating the 3D Service Instructions
    1. In Creo Illustrate, the service planner opens a Creo Assembly or a 3D model from another CAD application.
    2. The service planner then creates the sequence of the service procedure, defining the steps, tools and animations.
    3. The service planner then adds a unique ThingMark to the 3D model. This provides the correct orientation of the 3D service instructions once it is overlaid on the real product.
    4. Once complete, the service planner publishes the 3D service instruction to Vuforia in the cloud.
  2. Creating the 3D Service Experience
    1. Once the 3D service instructions are complete, someone must develop an experience that contains those service instructions.
    2. The experience can be enhanced and extended with all sorts of other stuff from ThingWorx, such as IoT sensor readings, notifications, messages and more. This can be displayed with respect to the ThingMark, so it also shows up in the right orientation with respect to the real product. This step is actually not required. So for organizations that really haven’t yet thought about the IoT for their products, don’t worry. You can skip this part.
  3. Viewing the 3D Service Instructions
    1. In the field, a remote field agent holds their tablet up to ThingMark on the product or uses their smart glasses. Using the tablet’s camera, the ThingWorx browser recognizes the ThingMark (and its spatial orientation and scale) and loads the associated experiences from the Cloud.
    2. The remote field agent selects the experience they want to load, of which there can be many.
    3. Within one experience, the remote field agent can play the 3D service instructions, which is overlaid on top of the camera’s view of the product.

With and Without IoT

It is important to note that none of this necessitates the use of IoT technology. You don’t actually have to have any connectivity in that physical product. You don’t have to instrument it with sensors. All you have to do is slap a ThingMark on it in the right place and orientation. Then remote field agents can play the 3D instruction through augmented reality.

Commentary and Analysis

OK. Now you have a good feel for what can be done with this combination of Creo Illustrate and Vuforia. So what? Well, there are important implications to think about.

A Fast Path to 3D Instructions

Even since PTC started down the path of enabling IoT products, it has seemed disconnected from their traditional base. There is an intersection, eventually, but they seemed separable. A company could use Creo and Windchill without ever thinking about PTC’s other product offerings.

Now, however, there is a fast and easy synergy between these two product areas. There are literally millions of CAD models out there within PTC customers. The path to delivering 3D instructions to remote field agents is now incredibly short. Build instructions in Creo Illustrate, put a ThingMark on the physical product and you are pretty much ready to go. Companies actually can reuse their CAD models in service.

The only concern in my mind, though, is that Creo customers have had a means of getting 3D models onto tablets for a few years now. A few years ago, PTC showed a assembly model on a tablet with a ‘shake and break’ capability that allowed it to be exploded. However, I never heard much about widespread adoption of this capability. Will a cloud delivery mechanism make a difference? Will the fact that the 3D instruction is overlaid on a physical product in augmented reality make a difference? I’m unsure.

IoT Strategy or Not

The other part I like about this is that it does not require an IoT strategy to be in place.

If you have not figured that out yet, yes, you probably should. But that is no reason to hold back on getting value immediately from cloud-delivered 3D instructions in an augmented reality fashion.

If you have a IoT strategy, then this provides some more value on top of what you already have. Quite literally, few other providers can offer something similar to this. And those that do likely do not support the reuse of Creo assemblies and models from other CAD applications.

Recap and Conclusions

Here are my takeaways.

  • The combination of Creo Illustrate and Vuforia combine to make it feasible to deliver 3D instructions through augmented reality to remote field agents.
  • This does not require an IoT strategy.
  • It represents a fast and easy path to capture value.

Those are my thoughts folks. Sound off and let me hear yours.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.