Nvidia, Siemens tout 'industrial metaverse' to predict the future

Using Pixar-derived tech to make digital twins immersive

Siemens and Nvidia don’t want manufacturers to imagine what the future will hold – they want to build a fancy digital twin that helps them to make predictions about whatever comes next.

During a press conference this week, Siemens CEO Roland Busch painted a picture of a future in which manufacturers are besieged with productivity, labor, and supply chain disruptions.

"The answer to all of these challenges is technology and digitalization," he said. "The point is, we have to make the digital twin as realistic as possible and bring it as close as possible to the real world."

Making digital representations of complex physical systems more accessible to customers of all sizes was the subject of Siemens and Nvidia's latest partnership: what Busch calls the "industrial metaverse."

"The industrial metaverse is an immersive, real-time digital twin. It's photorealistic but at the same time physics-based. This means the twin is not only showing how it looks like in real time, but also how it behaves in the real world," Busch enthused. "It's not about animation – it's about simulation."

Predicting the future?

"When we're designing a product, plan, or process, we want to predict whether it's going to be effective or not," Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang opined. "The ability to predict the future is possible in many areas of design."

By running a digital twin concurrently alongside a physical manufacturing plant, customers can establish a baseline that helps them to predict future performance.

"You have to believe that what happens in the physical world will be predicted in the virtual world, and what happens in the virtual world will absolutely happen in the physical world," Huang said. "As a result, this virtual model can be used for optimizations, design changes, future iterations, predictive maintenance … because you believe in it."

Within ten years, Huang believes the technology will enable manufacturers to design, simulate, and operate new plants or manufacturing facilities before they ever break ground.

The language barrier

As you might expect, creating a digital twin requires a lot of data from connected devices all communicating in a common language. That's where Siemens "Xcelerator", announced this week, comes in. The as-a-service offering is billed as an open, curated marketplace for operational technology software and hardware built around a common set of APIs.

"In order to create a digital twin, you have to fuse mechanical materials, electronics, computer software, planning, and ERP systems in a virtual plant," Huang explained, adding that to do this, Nvidia and Siemens are standardizing on the Pixar-developed universal scene description (USD).

All of this data can then be fed into Nvidia's Omniverse digital twinning platform to create photorealistic simulations of complex systems ranging from factory floors to the inner workings of an integrated circuit.

In addition to building out a compatible software and hardware ecosystem, Siemens Xcelerator also aims to lower the barrier to adoption.

"The basic idea of Siemens Xcelerator is to make it accessible for large companies, for small companies," to take advantage of things like digital twins, Busch explained. "This is the reason why we're pushing so hard for as-a-service, not just for software, but hardware-as-a-service."

While Busch dodged questions relating to how many customers will be able to afford the technology, he insisted it was in his company's best interest to make it accessible to even the smallest of manufacturers. He also suggested we might see some freemium offerings in the future as Siemens looks to scale up the platform.

What's more, customers that have already deployed the firm's NX or Tecnomatix platforms could get a taste of the so-called "industrial metaverse" sooner rather than later.

"If you're using any of those tools, you've already started down the journey of going into the industrial metaverse," Huang said. ®

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