Lean Digital Thread: The Manufacturing Metaverse Revisited

In my May column, I talked about the hype around the metaverse and looked at how the technology may be leveraged by manufacturers in the future. Because the metaverse is only starting to be built, the topic was a bit abstract, but the recent announcement of a partnership between Siemens and NVIDIA brings the industrial metaverse one big step closer to (virtual) reality. In this column, I will discuss the new partnership, the technology each party brings to the table, and how manufacturers can benefit from the collaboration.

The Partnership
The collaboration between Siemens and NVIDIA brings together two technology platforms to support an industrial metaverse: the digital business platform, Siemens Xcelerator, and the NVIDIA open world platform, NVIDIA Omniverse. The goal is to reach the next level of industrial automation by leveraging AI-driven digital twin technology. This will provide companies of any size with new ways to collaborate, innovate, and improve their performance.

“Photorealistic, physics-based digital twins embedded in the industrial metaverse offer enormous potential to transform our economies and industries by providing a virtual world where people can interact and collaborate to solve real-world problems. Through this partnership, we will make the industrial metaverse a reality for companies of all sizes,” says Roland Busch, president and CEO, Siemens AG. “For over a decade, our digital twin technology has been helping customers across all industries to boost their productivity and today offer the industry’s most comprehensive digital twin. When Siemens Xcelerator is connected to Omniverse, we will enable a real-time, immersive metaverse that connects hardware and software, from the edge to the cloud with rich data from Siemens’ software and solutions.”

Jensen Huang, founder, and CEO of NVIDIA agrees. “Siemens and NVIDIA share a common vision that the industrial metaverse will drive digital transformation. This is just the first step in our joint effort to make this vision real for our customers and all parts of the global manufacturing industry,” he says. “The connection to Siemens Xcelerator will open NVIDIA’s Omniverse and AI ecosystem to a whole new world of industrial automation that is built using Siemens’ mechanical, electrical, software, IoT, and edge solutions.”

Siemens Xcelerator Platform
Siemens is known as a leader in industrial automation and software. The company has been pioneering the digital twin for more than a decade and recently launched the Xcelerator digital business platform to accelerate the digital transformation process and provide a digital ecosystem and collaboration platform for customers, partners, and developers.

The Xcelerator platform consists of three main elements:

  1. The Portfolio: Xcelerator provides a curated portfolio of technology built on standard APIs. Software, services, and IoT-enabled hardware can be used modularly to create flexible and interoperable digital business solutions.

  2. The Ecosystem: The platform is open to certified partners to share their own digital solutions and expertise. Partners of any size can collaborate with customers and developers to co-create solutions and services that would not be possible for any one company to create alone. NVIDIA is the first major partner in the Xcelerator ecosystem.

  3. The Marketplace: Underlying the platform is a marketplace that will evolve over time to facilitate the interactions needed to increase the speed of value creation for platform users.

Several technical design principles employed on the platform are key to accelerating the digital transformation:

  • Interoperable: The Xcelerator platform will integrate technology seamlessly along domain-specific digital threads, decreasing the time typically needed to implement digital solutions.
  • Flexible: The offerings on the platform are modular, so users can pick what they need and scale as they grow. Solutions can also be personalized through low code development to suit the particular user's needs.
  • Open: Standard APIs ensure that partners are speaking the same language. Data can also be contextualized to enable analytics built on top of the solutions.
  • As-a-service: Most solutions on the platform will be service-based technologies, allowing users to access the latest and greatest technology without complexity and investment hurdles.
  • Cybersecure: All solutions on the platform apply the same high-quality security standards. This ensures that platform users can enjoy the benefits of digitalization while being protected from data theft and attacks.

NVIDIA Omniverse
NVIDIA is a multiverse technology pioneer, leading with strong capabilities in computing and long-term investment in AI technology. The NVIDIA Omniverse is a cloud-enabled platform that lets users create scalable, real-time, photo-realistic simulations. The platform leverages several cutting-edge technologies such as ray-traced and path-traced rendering to enable 3D design collaboration, physics-based digital twins, and world simulation.

Connecting Siemens Xcelerator to NVIDIA Omniverse means that the digital twin solutions offered on the Xcelerator platform can use the Omniverse technology for full-fidelity, real-time visualization and simulation. Omniverse supports physics-based product digital twins, meaning the objects in the platform perform and operate just like they would in the real world. The digital twin of production is also transferred to the Omniverse platform and continuously enriched with actual production data collected on Siemens IoT and edge devices, meaning that fidelity between the virtual and physical world is constantly increasing.

The Killer App: Continuous, AI-driven Optimization
With the ability to perfectly simulate the physical world in the virtual space, several interesting capabilities come to mind. Of course, collaboration will be greatly enhanced, with the ability for multi-functional teams from around the world to collaborate in co-designing and problem-solving. The next-generation platform also offers the ability to leverage artificial intelligence for continuous optimization and improvement.

NVIDIA Omniverse is natively AI-enabled which will allow for autonomous AI bots to constantly monitor the digital twins being simulated in the platform. As more fidelity flows into the simulation from real-time production data, the AI bots will be able to identify trends and bottlenecks, simulate many different possible improvements in the virtual world, and then work independently with the real factory automation to implement the changes that were most successful in the virtual world. This capability takes us one big step closer to the vision of a fully autonomous factory.

For more information about the Siemens and NVIDIA metaverse partnership, please check out this press release from Siemens.

Zac Elliott is technical marketing engineer for Siemens Digital Industries Software.

Additional content from Siemens Digital Industries Software: 




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