The metaverse is not reserved for video games, social networks or Web3: it also has many industrial applications and already the first use cases.
However, to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the metaverse, companies will have to take up the challenge of industrialization and go beyond the POC stage (Proof of concept).
The industrial world has long been accustomed to working with 3D models, particularly in areas such as luxury craftsmanship, which increasingly models its products virtually before manufacturing them. These technologies now find applications throughout the life cycle of a product, from the design phase – with PLM solutions – to maintenance and after-sales. With the industrial metaverse, the integration of 3D technologies and data is now pushed even further…
From digital twin to metaverse…
Digital twins – digital doubles of a product, a production line, an operator, a factory or all four at once – are the first bricks of the industrial metaverse. Connected to the real world, these tools are particularly useful for accelerating product design, simulating different configurations, anticipating changes in production lines, shortening production cycles or gaining flexibility in the supply chain.
The visualization of digital twin using Augmented Reality and/or Virtual Reality technologies, now achieves a level of precision and realism that makes simulations and projections of virtual production lines tangible. Thus, an uninformed spectator can no longer tell the difference between a 3D sequence and a filmed sequence, this realism of the virtual universe makes it possible to engage all the interlocutors. These faithful virtual representations also allow the training of artificial intelligence in hypothetical situations simulated in the digital twin, helping in particular to improve autonomous robotics improving the supervision of the plant and its safety.
Thus, having a digital model or a digital twin is not enough to make a metaverse. To do this, a collaborative approach should be adopted, by opening it up to all of the company’s stakeholders – subcontractors, suppliers, partners, even customers – but also to the various internal trades, even if it requires breaking many silos.
Traceability and value sharing
With an ecosystem vision, the industrial metaverse presents itself as a means of sharing company data in a secure and traceable way to facilitate the design, production and maintenance of products. For many manufacturers, the development of the metaverse offers the opportunity to create a real platform for exchange and collaboration, in order to improve operational efficiency.
By integrating Web3 logic and blockchain, this collaborative space also provides answers to the issues of traceability and value sharing between stakeholders, by making it possible to enhance, or even monetize, the use of each person’s digital assets and content. A subcontractor or a supplier can, for example, integrate the 3D models of the spare parts it produces into its customer’s repository and be rewarded for each of their uses, thanks to the possibilities offered by the NFTs. These new capabilities are a powerful accelerator to the adoption of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.
Connectivity with the production line
Connectivity with the production chain is also key, it makes it possible to upload real production data to the metaverse, to use the digital twin to identify optimizations but above all, in the event of alerts being raised on the physical chain, to simulate the different scenarios in the virtual world before applying the changes to the physical chain.
In this way, the realistic virtual representation mentioned above will be able to be directly increased by a visualization of the different metrics and their impacts on the production chain with an anticipated representation of the consequences of these KPI evolutions.
Going beyond the POC and POV stage
The aeronautical industry and car manufacturers – like BMW, with Nvidia and its Omniverse solutions – have already made good progress in this reflection, by digitizing their processes and bringing together their ecosystem of partners around the same digital platform. However, the industrialization of this type of approach still comes up against many obstacles and too often the experiments remain at the POC (proof of concept) or POV (proof of value) stage.
However, very quickly, the question of the industrialization of the production of digital assets will arise within companies, leading to the creation of real production chains of digital products. The interest? Supply content to industrial metaverses, but also to the general public.
This scaling up will require connecting the metaverse to the IS (information system), the heart of the company, by making historically compartmentalized data sources communicate together – such as CAD (computer-aided design) and PLM data. (product life cycle).
Finally, like any emerging technology, the metaverse holds a lot of promise that remains to be confirmed. Thus, without appropriate answers on the questions of choice of metaverse, architecture and relations with IS, identity and security and finally an appropriate legislative framework, its use in an industrial context risks being limited.
The task is complex, but it is the condition to be fulfilled in order to establish a true digital continuity of these services.
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The metaverse, a real tool for transforming the industry?
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