German car manufacturer BMW is expanding its use of the NVIDIA Omniverse digital twin platform. It announced its plans at the recent 2023 GTC Conference in San Fransisco, California, where numerous other Omniverse announcements (see: Architosh, “NVIDIA Expands Omniverse Ecosystem and Core Technologies,” 21 Mar 2023) led to strong positive sentiment about NVIDIA’s future prospects in industrial sectors.
BMW and the NVIDIA Omniverse
By deploying NVIDIA Omniverse digital twin platform, BMW can design, build, and test its production plants in a virtual environment years before it physically builds them.
The carmaker plans to use virtual reality in order to optimize all its future production facilities. It will do so by building and operating industrial metaverse applications across its production network around the world. Interestingly this includes BMW’s new electric vehicle plant in Debrecen, Hungary, the nation’s second-largest city, some 230 km east of the capital, Budapest.
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The Debrecen plant is not expected to start physical production until 2025. However, BMW’s designers and engineers around the world can get an accurate impression of how it will function before a single brick is laid.
In his GTC keynote, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang shared a demonstration of NVIDIA Omniverse digital twin, and commented:
“We are excited and incredibly proud of the progress BMW has made with Omniverse. The partnership will continue to push the frontiers of virtual integration and virtual tooling for the next generation of smart-connected factories around the world,”
Huang was joined by BMW Group’s Milan Nedeljković, officially to open the car maker’s first entirely virtual factory. Nedeljković said, “This is transformative — we can design, build and test completely in a virtual world,”
This part of the keynote was essentially a road-map view of BMW Group’s journey into digital transformation. It is also a blueprint for reducing risks and ensuring success before committing to massive construction projects and large capital expenditures.
A long time in the making
NVIDIA Omniverse’s digital twin platform is the culmination of over 25 years of work. This includes NVIDIA graphics, accelerated computing, simulation, and AI technologies. This enables manufacturing companies to plan and optimize multi-billion-dollar factory projects entirely in a virtual world.
Consequently, they can get to production faster and operate more efficiently. Thus reducing time to market and increasing sustainability. Moreover, it also avoids a lot of potentially expensive mistakes.
Digitization and sustainability.
The keynote demo highlights a virtual planning session for BMW’s Debrecen EV plant. With Omniverse, the BMW teams can aggregate data into massive, high-performance models. They can also connect their domain-specific software tools and enable multi-user live collaboration across various locations.
All of this is possible using any connected device in any location. The ability to work in the virtual factory two years before it opens enables the BMW Group to plan for smooth operation and optimum efficiency.
Virtual Integration for real cost savings
BMW Group’s virtual Debrecen plant illustrates the power and agility of planning AI-driven industrial manufacturing facilities using the NVIDIA Omniverse platform. In the EV factory demonstration, Nedeljković invites Huang into an update in which the BMW team seeks to include a robot in a constrained floor space. The team solves the problem on the fly, with logistics and production planners able to visualize and decide the ideal placement.
This kind of digital transformation certainly seems to pay off. Modifying and optimizing existing production facilities are very expensive. Moreover, it causes costly production downtime. So having the ability to pre-optimize manufacturing plants significantly reduces such costs.
BMW Group Transforming Production Worldwide
BMW has assembly plants, factories, and industrial planners worldwide. It also has a complex planning process. The carmaker uses many software tools and processes to connect people across geographies and time zones, which presents a variety of planning compatibility and logistical issues.
Nvidia Omniverse’s digital twin development platform is based on Pixar’s USD (Universal Scene Description). This is an open, standards-based 3D computing language that allows relatively easy interoperability between various software suites. Therefore BMW is able to bridge existing software and data repositories from leading industrial computer-aided design and engineering tools such as Siemens Process Simulate, Autodesk Revit, and Bentley Systems MicroStation.
With this unified view, BMW Group’s internal teams and external partners can collaborate and share knowledge. This can be combined with data from existing factories to help in the planning and construction of new facilities.
Additionally, the BMW team is developing a suite of custom applications with NVIDIA Omniverse. This includes a new application called Factory Explorer, based on Omniverse USD Composer, a customizable foundation application of the Omniverse platform. Thus BMW used core components of USD Composer and added custom-built extensions tailored to its factory-planning teams’ needs, including finding, constructing, navigating, and analyzing factory data.
To discover more about NVIDIA Omniverse digital twin technology, you can find its official documentation here. Meanwhile, a video recording of NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang’s GTC keynote is located on NVIDIA’s site here and on Youtube here.