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

BMW says the digital twin is exploiting huge efficiency potential in the planning process.

By early 2023, the BMW Group will have a digital scan of all its car factories worldwide. In this way, the company says it is systematically merging the real and virtual worlds and tapping into the huge potential for highly efficient planning of future factory structures and production facilities.

In addition to data science and artificial intelligence, virtual planning is described by BMW as a core element of digitalization within the strategic vision of BMW production: the BMW iFACTORY.

The goal is to make the planning and simulation of all processes and the entire production system 100 percent virtual. Virtualization takes the planning of all processes to a new level by enabling real-time collaboration between different locations and in different time zones.

“This opens up completely new possibilities for us to implement both extensive re-planning and small-scale remodeling of existing structures in a very efficient, accurate and flexible way,” says Michele Melchiorre, Head of Production System, Planning, Tool Shop, Plant Construction at the BMW- group.

“Production planning can integrate the virtual product into the virtual factory at an early stage. This reduces planning effort and capital expenditure while ensuring processes are more efficient and stable during startup,” he says.

For completely new future production structures, the BMW Group will rely on the partnership with NVIDIA and its Omniverse software platform. “We are entering a new dimension of factory planning,” says Melchiorre.

Thanks to the digital twin, planners can virtually walk through the BMW Group factories anytime, anywhere. They can also co-develop production systems in the simulated world, compare best practices, and share information quickly and easily across the network. “This forms the basis for the planning and development of our new vehicle plant in Debrecen in Hungary,” adds Melchiorre: “Today, approximately three years before the series launch, we are already able to virtually simulate the core processes in our future plant. “

The BMW Group is digitizing its existing factories in collaboration with NavVis. The Munich-based startup is a technology provider in the field of reality capture and digital twins. Mobile 3D laser scanners will be used by early 2023 to create photorealistic panoramic images, floor plans and scatterplots for all BMW Group car plants, accurate to the smallest detail, including all building structures, facilities and outdoor areas.

Since November 2020, approximately four million square meters of indoor space and nine million square meters of outdoor space at BMW Group factories have been scanned with 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 caught in September this year. By spring 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 massive volumes of data.

About 15,000 BMW employees already work with this data, using a cloud and web browser-based software, the BMW Factory Viewer. With the help of this software, existing installations can be virtually inspected with just a few mouse clicks, specific production points can be found via Points of Interest (POIs) and very accurate measurements can be made.

The system also makes it possible to cut out individual parts of the 3D scans and make them available to external suppliers. BMW says this saves time and effort during production planning, improves collaboration with internal and external interfaces, and eliminates scheduling errors.

3D scanning technology also makes it possible to quickly and easily transfer both smaller and larger conversion projects at BMW plants to the digital world, using the so-called re-scan process. In this area, the company is developing its own autonomous scanning robots to keep the digital master data up-to-date in the long term, without requiring additional staffing. The BMW Group uses in-house solutions for this, such as the Smart Transport Robot (STR) developed by BMW Group subsidiary IDEALWORKS.

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