Every three years, interpack offers the packaging and processing industry the opportunity to see new technologies before consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) and consumers decide whether an innovation is a game-changer or just a fad.

This May, the Dusseldorf, Germany trade fair provided the deepest glimpse yet at a technology that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have long been trying to work into their offerings: virtual reality (VR).

At least a dozen companies exhibited full hands-on demonstrations of VR while many others promoted the technology as something they now provide to accentuate their equipment showings.

OEMs used VR to demonstrate future projects and give examples of machinery output, replacement part ordering, step-by-step repair instructions and remote monitoring. At interpack, VR was primarily used to augment sales and project demonstrations.

Cavanna Packaging Group and Bosch Packaging each provided simulated looks at biscuit lines in action. The technology offered users a closer inspection of the machinery in addition offered the technology as a potential troubleshooting tool for operators.

ARPAC’s VR not only enabled the user to experience a full packaging line with robots and palletizing but also provided access to an elevating platform. By elevating the user, it permitted an overhead view of the virtual line. The demonstration was augmented by the fact that an actual line was also on display, giving the viewer a glimpse at how close VR is to mimicking reality. VR allows close-up, technical views of machinery not on the show floor for space or cost reasons. The technology also serves as an enhancement reserved for potential customers to see machines an OEM might not want to release to the public.

Augmented reality (AR) is also beginning to gain a stronger foothold, although it was not nearly as visible as VR at interpack.

Industrial “smart” glasses demonstrated capabilities like a more rugged Google Glass. In most cases, the glasses bore the Microsoft brand and offered remote assistance from either connected software or offsite technicians. With AR, the glasses can also indicate replacement times for components or parts as well as offer a chance to identify and order spare parts. For multinational OEMs with global customers this enhances preventative maintenance.

A roadblock that some OEMs have found is an unwillingness for customers to allow access to internal networks. Without full commitment and trust from CPGs, VR and AR will find themselves as nothing more than a passing packaging fad.

At the upcoming PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017 and co-located Healthcare Packaging EXPO (Las Vegas Convention Center; Sept. 25–27) exhibitors like those mentioned above will offer VR and AR examples as well as all the latest packaging technologies.

In addition to the technology on display on the show floor, PACK EXPO Las Vegas will offer a host of educational and networking opportunities, as well as industry-specific events. Registration, which includes access to both PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO, is $30 until Sept. 1, where after the price increases to $100. For more information and to register online, visit packexpolasvegas.com.