MT Magazine January/February 2024




within metal 3D printers collects readings from every single powder layer deposited. This layer-by-layer observation builds a high-fidelity representation of the part’s defects while removing the need for non-destructive testing methods like CT scans. The ASTM International Center of Excellence, in their Additive Manufacturing In-Situ Monitoring Technology Readiness Strategic Guide, reports the most mature aspects of this technology: • Layer Imaging: “In PBF-LB and DED processes, off-axis cameras can be used to image and assess the quality of the top layer of the powder bed. This method allows monitoring of the entire build area for anomalies such as short feed, high spots, and more. Layer imaging is already being included in many commercial systems and is also being offered by several OEMs as an upgrade to already-installed machines.” • Residual Stress and Distortion Models: “Models to predict and systems to monitor distortion effects due to residual stress have been demonstrated to be accurate at prediction, detection, and mitigation. This capability is already included in commercial software packages and systems.” Case Study: Digital-First EV Factory When implemented fully, digital twins unlock the purchasing of hardware beyond the hypothetical, letting businesses rearrange floorplans or optimize floor cell designs with little guesswork. GPU giant Nvidia is helping automaker BMW Group transform its newest production network into a digital-first, entirely virtual factory. Powered by their Omniverse Enterprise, BMW’s electric vehicle plant in Debrecen, Hungary, is being built virtually before its opening in 2025. Nvidia describes it: “With Omniverse, the BMW team can aggregate data into massive, high-performance models, connect their domain-specific software tools, and enable multi-user live collaboration across locations. All of this is possible from any location, on any device. Starting to work in the virtual factory two years before it opens enables the BMW Group to ensure smooth operation and optimal efficiency. And the benefits are also monetary: “Putting in change orders

and flow reoptimizations on existing facilities is extremely costly and causes production downtime. So having the ability to pre-optimize virtually eliminates such costs.” Key Points Digital twins leverage computation and integrated data collection technology to create a robust framework for advanced manufacturing. Here are the main takeaways for manufacturers interested in the technology: 1. Digital twins use real-time data to evolve, matching the physical system as closely as possible. This allows for fully virtual process optimization, diagnostics, and design with near-infinite freedom. 2. The manufacturing industry is one of the fastest growing spaces for digital twins. 3. Smaller manufacturers have much to gain from the technology, given they have the IT resources and knowledge base to deploy them. 4. Toolmakers are helping to close this gap by including these resources in equipment, such as metal 3D printers with imaging and predictive modeling support, which are available today. 5. Nvidia’s work on BMW’s EV plant shows where advanced manufacturing is going and how all aspects of the supply chain will integrate into the process.

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