Augmented reality solutions connect people, support cross-border services, replace travel – and are an important component of digitalization at ZEISS. They enable system technicians on site to master complex tasks together with the manufacturer's specialists – without anyone having to enter a car or board a plane.

ZEISS SMT service engineer at work

Through the customer's eyes: digitalization makes service at ZEISS limitless

At the other end of the world, a sensor is sounding the alarm: In a mask repair system in Taiwan, a value is slowly but surely slipping out of the green range towards red. The maintenance technicians analyze the problem and quickly realize that a specialist for electron beam columns is needed here. Normally, a colleague from the ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT) segment would now set off for the customer. Normally, but not in this case. Because it is March 2021 and a virus has put the world into a form of suspended animation – with countless planes on the ground and social distancing measures in place. The daily work routine had changed abruptly, also at ZEISS SMT. Shutting down the system is not an option – every hour of downtime entails high costs. What to do?

Augmented reality services

As a digitalization expert, SMT knows what to do: 3-D glasses overcome space and borders and connect the team in the Far East with their colleagues in Jena. The Microsoft HoloLens transfers the field of vision of the plant technicians in Taiwan to the screens of their colleagues in Germany. This allows them to see the plant (almost) as well as with their own eyes. In return, you can send three-dimensional images, instructions and videos directly into the field of vision of the people wearing the glasses. Together, they analyze the problem and discuss possible solutions – while specific instructions help the technicians on site and correct the fault. A final functional check ensures the continued trouble-free operation of the system.

It's not the technician who travels, but his knowledge

For SMT, the use of augmented reality (AR) is not just an emergency solution in pandemic times, but a future-oriented instrument for smooth partnerships. The service team for equipment in the semiconductor industry has already gained a lot of experience with the use of remote assistance technologies. They agree: Using HoloLens in conjunction with Microsoft Teams is a good solution for remote services. Virtual meetings are also now used for standard tasks and continuous processes.

Jörg Petschulat

Augmented reality solutions connect people, support cross-border services, replace travel – and are an important component of digitalization at ZEISS.

Dr. Jörg Petschulat

Head of Global R&D ZEISS SMS
Working in a virtual environment at ZEISS SMT

Light and shadow in virtual space

Like the ubiquitous video conferences, augmented reality communication also has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it lacks direct human contact – real-life exchange among all the participants. On the other hand, the above example reveals that challenges can be overcome quickly and efficiently in virtual space. As an innovative company, ZEISS will continue to expand communication via HoloLens in the future. There are challenges to be overcome in terms of both content and security: For example, the virtual content and work packages must be thoroughly prepared in advance and coordinated with those responsible on site. And of course, security issues also play a major role. The SMT customers are very sensitive when it comes to data security. Winning them over for virtual processes sometimes takes real powers of persuasion. SMT’s strict data protection specifications and high-end standards in terms of data and IT security help here.

The future at ZEISS is augmented and virtual

Besides augmented reality technologies to support worldwide equipment installations and service calls, virtual reality (VR) solutions are being increasingly utilized. Here, reality is not only augmented by visual information, but is built up completely in virtual form. This technology is already being used successfully – especially in training courses and equipment training. Service technicians learn how to set up the system, analyze faults and replace components in a virtual environment. As part of a pilot project, the first virtual training sessions were conducted at ZEISS in Taiwan. The colleagues were enthusiastic about the new technological possibilities. The colleagues can now be trained on site without building up further training backlogs due to travel restriction.

The bottom line is that the use of AR and VR solutions offers clear advantages and opens new perspectives for cooperation with and support of ZEISS customers. And they not only save time and money – but also have a positive impact on the energy and environmental balance.

Joerg Petschulat
Author Dr. Jörg Petschulat Head of Global R&D ZEISS SMS

Share this article