BMW Group Digitalizes All Its Vehicle Plants Using 3D Laser Scanning

BMW digital twin

By early 2023, the BMW Group will have a digital scan of every one of its vehicle plants worldwide. In this way, the company is systematically merging the real and virtual worlds and tapping into the enormous potential for highly efficient planning of future plant structures and production facilities.

“This opens up entirely new possibilities for us to implement both extensive new planning and smaller-scale remodeling of existing structures in a highly efficient, precise, and flexible manner,” says Michele Melchiorre, head of Production System, Planning, Tool Shop, Plant Construction at the BMW Group.

100% virtual planning, simulation, and production

Alongside data science and artificial intelligence, virtual planning is a core element of digitalization within the strategic vision of BMW production: the BMW iFACTORY. The aim is to make planning and simulation of all processes and the entire production system 100 percent virtual. Virtualization takes planning for all processes to a new level, by enabling collaboration in real time between different locations and across different time zones.

“Production planning can integrate the virtual product into the virtual factory at an early stage. This reduces planning effort and capital expenditure and, at the same time, ensures processes are more efficient and more stable during ramp-up,” explains Melchiorre.

“We are entering a new dimension of factory planning,” underlines Melchiorre. This means planners can conduct a virtual walk-through of BMW Group plants at any time, from anywhere. They can develop production systems together in the simulated world, compare best practices and share information quickly and easily within the network.

“This forms the basis for planning and developing our new vehicle plant in Debrecen in Hungary,” continues Melchiorre: “Today, around three years before the series launch, we are already able to simulate core processes at our future plant virtually.”

NavVis Reality Capture and Digital Twins Technology

The BMW Group is digitalizing its existing plants in cooperation with NavVis. The Munich startup is considered one of the world’s leading providers of technology in the field of reality capture and digital twins.

Mobile 3D laser scanners will be used to create photorealistic panoramic images, floor plans, and scatter plots for all BMW Group vehicle plants, by early 2023, that are accurate down to the last detail, including all building structures, facilities, and outdoor areas.

BMW NavVis

Since November 2020, around four million square meters of indoor space and nine million square meters of outdoor space at BMW Group plants have been scanned using portable mobile scanning systems and drone systems. The NavVis IVION Enterprise platform will then create a digital image of reality – the Digital Twin – from these huge data volumes.

For completely new future production structures, the BMW Group will rely on cooperation with NVIDIA and its Omniverse software platform.

Virtual collaboration

Around 15,000 BMW employees are already working with the data, using a cloud- and web-browser-based software called the BMW Factory Viewer. With the help of this software and with just a few clicks, existing plants can be virtually inspected, specific points in production found via points of interest (POIs), and highly precise measurements carried out.

The system also allows individual sections of the 3D scans to be cut out and made available to external suppliers, for instance. This saves time and effort during production planning, improves collaboration with internal and external interfaces, and eliminates planning errors.

3D scanning technology also allows both smaller and larger-scale remodelling projects at BMW plants to be transferred quickly and easily to the digital world, using the so-called re-scan process.

BMW NavVis Scanner

The company is working in this area on developing its own autonomous scanning robots to keep the digital master data current in the long term, without requiring additional personnel effort. For this purpose, the BMW Group is using in-house solutions, such as the Smart Transport Robot (STR) developed by BMW Group subsidiary IDEALWORKS.

Michele Melchiorre: “Partnerships like those with NVidia and NavVis allow us to combine our pioneering spirit and process know-how with cutting-edge technologies.”

Source and images: BMW Group, June 21, 2022

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