Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance

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Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre


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[email protected]

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The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), comprised of the AMRC with Boeing and the Nuclear AMRC, is a faculty-level unit within the University of Sheffield. The AMRC conducts collaborative research within a number of different sectors, each with unique challenges.

The University of Sheffield AMRC with Boeing is a world-class center for advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It is a partnership between industry and academia, which has become a model for research centers worldwide.

The AMRC with Boeing is dedicated to working with manufacturing businesses, from global aerospace giants to local SMEs. We work with around 80 member companies, which pay an annual fee to access our resources and expertise along with hundreds of other companies on specific R&D projects.

The Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre helps UK manufacturers win work in civil nuclear and other innovative energy sectors. The Nuclear AMRC combines academic innovation with industry expertise to help UK manufacturers improve capabilities and performance along the supply chain. Its facilities and services are open to all.

The center’s engineers and sector specialists work with companies to develop innovative techniques and optimized processes for large-scale high-precision manufacturing. Companies can use the Nuclear AMRC’s state-of-the-art workshop—with over $38 million worth of production-scale equipment—to develop and test new processes on production-scale machines without losing capacity in their own factories.

Background and Achievements

The AMRC has long been established in the world of Virtual Reality. For over ten years it has worked with its network of partners to create industrial applications with measurable ROI. By acting as a conduit between the developer, and the user, the AMRC has been able to directly influence the market, ensuring the technology meets the requirements of each individual user: ensuring a technology pull, rather than technology push. Specializing in integration, the AMRC has worked with industry to develop a number of robust methods in order to drive the VR industry forward and accelerate adoption. With the Augmented Reality industry now embarking on a similar path as it strives towards enterprise adoption, the AMRC is looking at applying similar mechanisms in order to repeat this strategic development profile within the AR space.

Challenges to Be Addressed by AR

Similar to the challenges faced with the “virtual” world 10, 15 years ago, the biggest challenge the industry faces is expectation management. Virtual Reality as an industry suffered in its formative years because the developers and suppliers promised the earth but in actual fact, delivered little value. Too often the capability of the technology was oversold, which instantly put potential early adopters on the defensive. Industry was more concerned with what the technology could not do, rather than what it could do. It is a trough from which the Virtual Reality industry has only recently begun to crawl out of. The AMRC’s experience has shown that this initial engagement is crucial. Unfortunately we are seeing the same mistakes being made with AR. There are too many marketing or concept videos which set user expectations far too high. AR is a developing technology; it will ultimately change how we interact and visualize the world around us, but it will take time. It requires a set of ingredients (hardware, software, content, network, etc.) which, while maturing, are not mature enough today to deliver a “polished” AR experience. At the AMRC we are guiding industry to show them that while AR is not fully mature, it is able to deliver real ROI in a number of areas.

Why AR Is a Strategic Area

The AMRC operates within a number of different sectors, each with unique challenges, but invariably they are connected by a common theme: the digital thread.

The digital thread runs through all aspects of manufacturing, from PLM integration, to MES execution and beyond. By taking this thread into an augmented world, its value can be enhanced and extended. With 21st century manufacturing and engineering adopting big data and IoT themes, a vast array of data and information is available to the end user. Augmented Reality opens the door to effectively and efficiently visualizing this information. The delivery of the right information to the relevant end user and at the appropriate time is central to the AMRC’s AR strategy. With the onset of industry 4.0, the AMRC is building its Factory 2050, a reconfigurable showcase for advanced manufacturing methods and mechanisms, in which AR will play a pivotal role.

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