Bridge the gap between the digital and physical with XR planning and layout

Posted on 12 Apr 2022 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

Extended Reality (XR) is helping to bridge the gap between the digital and physical when creating and planning factory and plant layouts.

XR enables engineers to visualize and interact with a combination of data formats (3D CAD, AEC data, PLM data, scanned data) in a single design layout, in real world and immersive environments, providing tangible benefits for existing and greenfield site design without the associated downtime, travel and costs.

Creating fully immersive digital spaces that can be reviewed collaboratively and updated in real time gives an accurate overview of workspace requirements and takes into consideration important human factors around accessibility, visibility and space allocations.

Combining design assets; the latest Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality devices with high quality streaming/rendering capabilities is the next step in large-scale design. But how accessible is this technology? Or rather, how disruptive is it?

Not the full picture

Whether it’s a section of an assembly line, or an entire facility, scale is an issue. Some may go as far to build cardboard replicas, either to scale or full size. But this time consuming, and often wasteful extra step in the process, highlights the fact that creating new layouts can be expensive and disruptive.

With the right tools, a simple save as or drag and drop procedure from within the design application can digitally transport the user directly inside their designs, revolutionising the process.

Scale is an issue

You’ve taken the step from 2D to full scale 3D, but how do you then navigate your way around such a large-scale design?

Mixed and Virtual Reality are great for reviewing factory and plant plans at full scale to give engineers a better idea of the size of a project. But, it can still be difficult to fully navigate around them – especially if building plans are for more than one storey – so the ability to use waypoints to teleport from one area to another area enables users to easily navigate through a planning review session.

Reducing Human Risk

Human centred operations can be assessed in XR using mannequins that can be switched to match different characteristics. Design and operational aspects of a variety of human factors can be visualised to determine reachability, access, and injury risk situations to assist with determining compliance to safety and ergonomic standards.

Mix it up with your own data

Using your own library of data gives designers and planners the option to swap out and change fixtures and fittings in real-time and save the different iterations for future reference. Having a library full of digital assets that may be required for the layout enables designers to edit parts of the design. Variations on models of machinery, work benches, robot cells, storage units and others, means that options can be tried until the right combination fits.

By doing all of this digitally in advance, project time is reduced when it comes to the actual build, further reducing costs.

Get everyone involved

A major benefit of using XR for factory and plant layouts are the collaboration capabilities. With a device and a wifi connection, globally located teams are able remotely meet and review a proposed layout or change. At full scale it is possible to better understand technical challenges, quickly approve design amendments and make decisions, saving money on travel and reducing time to production. For those that can’t attend, it is possible to capture those decisions for later review.

For staff members without an immersive device, they can collaborate and visualize a live layout session from their desktop.

If offline licensing is available, users can cache a license to their device and access their data without a network connection- this is especially useful when visiting prospective greenfield sites.

Preparation is everything

Using XR to anticipate problems, make better decisions, save time and identify design challenges, organisations can facilitate more creative discussions and solve real world problems quickly and collaboratively. If this is considered as being ‘disruptive’, what does complementary look like?

To learn more about factory layout and plant planning in XR please visit