Thursday, July 7, 2022

All BMW Group vehicle plants to be digitalised using 3D laser scanning by early 2023

Munich. 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 remodelling 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.

Alongside data science and artificial intelligence, virtual planning
is a core element of digitalisation 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. Virtualisation 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.

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

The BMW Group is digitalising 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.

Since November 2020, around four million square metres of indoor
space and nine million square metres of outdoor space at BMW Group
plants have been scanned using portable mobile scanning systems and
drone systems. As a result, digital twins are already available for
the US plant in Spartanburg, the main plant in Munich and Plant
Regensburg. Plants Dingolfing, Leipzig and Tiexi in China will also be
captured by September of this year. By spring of 2023, digital data
will also be available for the BMW Group plants in Mexico, South
Africa, the UK and Dadong, China. The NavVis IVION Enterprise platform
will then create a digital image of reality – the Digital Twin – from
these huge data volumes.

Around 15,000 BMW employees are already working with this 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. 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.”

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