Written by CIOReview.com

The Next Revolution for Manufacturing: 3D Visualization For the Digital Twin

The pandemic has turned many industries upside down as they struggle to rethink how they do business. This is especially urgent with digital transformation in the manufacturing industry. There is a necessity to update decades-old tools and processes so that world-wide collaboration isn’t interrupted and the supply chain doesn’t come to a crawl. The best way to accomplish this is by replacing outdated technology and processes with Industry 4.0 digital transformation. Not only can companies leverage remote collaboration tools and keep workers safe, but they can also future-proof business processes while improving innovation. It’s no surprise that digital transformation is gaining executive buy-in and support to take advantage of these changes.

Enter Vertex Software, a company who solves both old and new problems in manufacturing. Vertex enables companies to take advantage of a “digital twin” of their products. The digital twin is a one-to-one virtual representation of a physical product that aligns with systems of record across an enterprise. Digital twins enable teams to access a product’s data anywhere in its lifecycle to support decision-making, analysis, product improvement, and customer experience. Vertex provides 3D visualization for the digital twin, enabling true communication and collaboration with true visual context for product and IoT data.

“We’re sitting at the brink of the future where companies in manufacturing are going to be able to create rich, interactive 3D experiences by leveraging the data they already own,” says Vertex CEO & Founder Dan Murray. “Together, we are bringing about the next revolution for manufacturing and enabling the workforce in a way that manufacturers have only dreamed of.”

Accelerate Digital Transformation

Collaboration workflows and technologies aren’t just about connecting people in chat windows or software suites. It’s about how work gets done. The pandemic has revealed new challenges in collaboration. One customer of Vertex historically has in-person, hands-on training for tens of thousands of service people in over a dozen training centers, creating obvious challenges in the era of COVID. Another customer’s factory floor and assembly lines have dramatically slowed due to reduced workforces and social distancing practices. Yet another struggles to collaborate with their customer-base on engineered-to-order products.

This example shows how customers are embedding Vertex into interactive service training manuals, giving them a 3D visual reference where there wasn't one before.

Image 1: This example shows how customers are embedding Vertex into interactive service training manuals, giving them a 3D visual reference where there wasn't one before.

Manufacturers are also beleaguered by traditional challenges deeply embedded in the manufacturing industry centered around working with 3D product data. This data is typically found in CAD data, which is the information that defines and describes a product’s form and function and provides critical insights into assembly and service. CAD data originates in engineering but is extremely valuable to all teams in manufacturing. However, it is very underutilized outside of engineering even when managed in a PLM system because it contains heavyweight, large files. To deliver CAD data to service, factory floor, and sales teams, companies have to invest in expensive PLM systems and time-consuming data conversion that dramatically reduces a product’s details, making it challenging to base decisions from.

“For one customer, it takes 16 months from start to finish to convert engineering 3D CAD design data to its final form, costing millions of dollars on data transformation,” explains Murray. “You end up reducing the visual quality and data so much that the end-user experience is low quality, low fidelity, and can’t be used for analysis. As a result, you get challenges in communication and making good, timely decisions about the product. Vertex eliminates the need to work through data transformation time and costs, and provides a full fidelity, interactive visual for that customer in a matter of minutes.”

These stories are universal. Manufacturers around the globe are experiencing similar collaboration challenges every day. But as Vertex’s customers are quickly discovering, not only does the Vertex platform help to solve problems made apparent in the pandemic, it helps manufacturers shift towards a digital transformation mindset to be more agile, streamlined, and cost-effective.

Gain Quick Wins with The 3D Digital Twin

Vertex provides the answer to leveraging CAD assets and making 3D data available across the enterprise in a way that streamlines and accelerates revenue. “Vertex lets anyone in the extended enterprise collaborate effectively with a 3D interactive model that gets everyone on the same page,” says Murray. “Everyone can relate to what a picture of an engine is. Once everyone can agree on the elements, that forms the basis of communication. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a rich, interactive 3D model is worth a million.”

Vertex’s capabilities enable companies to deliver purpose-built, 3D digital twin applications with an extremely low total cost of ownership to any user in the enterprise. They provide a platform with an API and open-source SDK to embed their visualization engine into a manufacturer’s existing applications. They also have an out-of-the-box solution to collaborate. As Murray says, “Leveraging 3D product data assets doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. It should be about the end-user experience.”

Due to the months-long data transformation process, low fidelity, and degraded models, downstream teams can’t easily make decisions. Vertex has no data transformation, meaning there is no model degradation so teams can interact with high fidelity visuals. They enable companies to work at massive scale both in 3D model size and concurrent users. And because Vertex doesn’t require expensive hardware or software, customers experience the lowest cost infrastructure by orders of magnitude and can access interactive visuals on any device, such as phones and tablets. All the while, Vertex is extremely secure in order to protect a company’s IP.

“There’s no other company out there today that’s able to offer industrial 3D visualization at massive scale with complex 3D model rendering on any device,” says Murray. “We are unmatched in our ability to scale concurrent number of users, with the model fidelity to support rich analysis.”

3D CAD files and traditional file-based PLM and 3D visualization systems make it extremely complicated to share 3D information across an organization. Not only are they heavyweight and complex, they only work with particular software and high-end hardware, both of which add significant costs to an organization. Companies expend significant time and money towards distributing files in a scalable way, yet always fall short. Vertex removes the file’s weight and format restrictions in their cloud technology. By using distributed cloud data storage, they eliminate the reliance on files. “Instead of draining money in software licensing, server infrastructures, and new hardware, Vertex enables companies to communicate collaboratively and solve issues with our low-cost, high performance, and scalable platform,” says Murray.

Vertex is turnkey and takes only minutes to get up and running. Development teams can rapidly build 3D web applications from the ground up, accessing real engineering product data without being visualization experts. Vertex integrates seamlessly with a company’s data sources to ensure data is synchronized everywhere in the organization. Within a matter of minutes, developers use the Vertex low code, no code platform to drop a 3D window into their application and enable its use on any device anywhere.

For example, a single product will have several terabytes worth of data coming off of sensors at a time. Today, companies try to make sense of that data with spreadsheets, charts, and graphs. Still, it’s incredibly challenging to understand performance in this way. Vertex can plug into a customer’s IoT solutions to provide 3D visualization dashboards with situational triggers to immediately gain an understanding of massive amounts of data in the context of the plant or product. People can understand and collaborate on IoT data in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

Enable The Next Step In Innovation

By focusing on the user experience and making 3D product data available for anyone in the enterprise, Vertex is very customer-driven in their approach to innovation. “We listen very carefully to understand the challenges our customers face and solve real-world problems,” explains Murray. Consider the aforementioned customer challenges for in-person training, factory floor productivity, and engineer-to-order product design. Vertex is replacing in-person training with self-guided virtual training to help service personnel understand how to repair and deliver high-quality service to customers. Not only is this solution in a remote, safe setting, the solution ultimately saves the customer thousands of dollars in travel and training time, with a more immersive experience. On the factory floor, Vertex enables their customer to deliver 3D-based virtual work instructions that help workers be more effective, even without face-to-face contact. And Vertex works with companies whose customers are delighted with a new form of interaction where they can see the product take shape before their eyes.

“The key is every manufacturing company out there wants to be more agile and move fast. That's why I'm excited about this. We have the opportunity to enable the next step in innovation for the industry,” concludes Murray. “People want to use technology for more purposes and get focused on innovation. Having people tell me, ‘you enable me to do what I went to school for’ is the most satisfying thing any entrepreneur can hear.”