Since Facebook announced it is rebranding to Meta, the long-forgotten concept of the Metaverse, which first appeared in 1992 in the novel “Snow Crash”, has suddenly become the talk of the town. The concept of the Metaverse is fascinating to say the least, for all the good and bad reasons. It is no longer a question of who owns the Metaverse, but rather what the Metaverse is developed for. As with any technology, the Metaverse does indeed have a dark side with people interacting in the digital world without any proper regulatory measure. However, many other applications are taking the concept in the right direction with a potential to improve many practices and activities. The industrial Metaverse is a concept that merges advances in industrial IoT (IIoT) with the latest developments in 3D representation and the extended reality. While IIoT has been the driver for Industry 4.0, the Metaverse can indeed be the precursor for Industry 5.0. On another note, the industrial Metaverse is a concretization of digital twin solutions applied to industrial applications. Therefore, how is the industrial Metaverse shaping up to be the next big thing?
Industrial Metaverse Use Cases
The industrial Metaverse is meant to change how industries are functioning, both reducing costs and improving performance. The scale of changes is similar to what digital twins in meant to bring to the healthcare sector.
With the advent of the new virtual world, automation will be taken to the next level. The combination of IIoT and 5G private networks has allowed enterprises to streamline their operations. The addition of an extended reality layer will allow related personnel to visualize how automation is taking effect and identify ways to improve it.
One of most time-consuming tasks in industry is the proper design of products. The main issue in the process is how to find the optimal design that meet the defined requirements without any defects or foreseeable issues when it is meant to be put into operation. The output of the design process will have a big effect on the remaining steps including manufacturing and testing. This is why extensive simulations are usually performed to make all variables are behaving as they should. The industrial metaverse will enable a digital twin of the product being designed. The group of engineers responsible for the design can see the product in action before even being manufactured. The extended reality tools will therefore faithfully represent how the end-product will operate in real scenarios.
Manufacturing and Supply Chain
Manufacturing is another key process that affects the whole product lifecycle as involves many activities including the provision of materials, the availability of the required manufacturing tools, among others. Manufacturing is also the central component of the supply chain, in between the sourcing and procurement processes and the delivery process. While it is affected by delays in acquiring in necessary resources, it can itself significantly affect the distribution of the intended product. The beauty of the industrial Metaverse is that it allows the streamline the whole process, reproducing every single step and detail. As in the design process, the personnel can predict ahead of time the root causes of any issue and delay and optimize the supply chain accordingly. Think of it as a virtual Lego where you have infinite resources to choose from to complete your structure!
With any new product and design process comes the need to do a complete training to the different employees involved in the cycle. Trainings are usually costly processes involving the procurement of machines and using the services of specialized instructors. The industrial Metaverse can be used to create a complete lab environment with avatars of the needed instructors and a digital twin representation of the machines, tools, and product needed. The immersive learning experience will provide the same intended result as in a normal physical setup.
Troubleshooting, Testing, and Support
The last advantage worth mentioning for the industrial metaverse is in the testing, troubleshooting and customer support. The ability of future Metaverse environments to faithfully replicate physical entities will make post-production troubleshooting, testing, and support much simpler. For instance, testing new components requires the development of specific tools that will allow the execution of testing scenarios. This extremely costly, yet necessary process, can be greatly streamlined using the future digital ecosystem.
Siemens and the NVIDIA Omniverse
Companies have started going into the new industrial Metaverse ecosystem. Siemens lately announced an agreement with NVIDIA to use its Omniverse platform to create its own industrial Metaverse. NVIDIA’s Omniverse is a multi-GPU (graphical processing unit) platform for 3D simulations with a support to the addition of AI-tools to create virtual movable elements that replicate what is happening in the physical reality. When combined with the Siemens Xcelerator platform, a digital twin for industrial purposes will be created.
The SOLIDWORKS Metaverse
SOLIDWORKS is a platform that is widely used to develop elaborate three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) models. Lately, the company developed an extended reality addition that will virtually bring the developed 3D structure to life thus producing a Metaverse-like ecosystem where the user can interact with the product using augmented, virtual and mixed reality techniques.
The industrial Metaverse is shaping to be one of the popular and “good” applications of the upcoming virtual world. In a sense, the industrial Metaverse is the industry-specific digital twin solution that is expected to come with future evolutions of the current 5G standard when computational and communications capabilities are enough to produce a seamless lag-free experience. The complete supply chain process can be optimized. The investments towards the construction of the digital twin solution will undoubtedly result in considerable cost savings later on.
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