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‘Digital reality’ helps to solve production problems

02 March, 2023

The UK-based Manufacturing Intelligence division of the Swedish Hexagon group has launched a “digital reality” platform that uses cloud technologies, co-engineered with Microsoft, to unblock innovation bottlenecks, enabling global manufacturing teams to collaborate in real-time across the product lifecycle – from design and engineering, to production and quality – to solve design and manufacturing problems together, and accelerate time-to-market.

The platform, called Nexus, connects equipment, data and processes to create a digital reality where insights are available in real time, in context and in one place, allowing users to make better informed decisions. They will be able to choose what they need from Hexagon’s hundreds of design and engineering, production, and metrology software applications and devices, as well as third-party technologies.

The first commercial Nexus apps are:
Metrology Reporting, which connects Hexagon and third-party metrology data sources in a secure cloud environment, allowing companies to report on previously untapped quality control data from their equipment, to spot trends and identify tolerance issues. Users can generate interactive 3D CAD-based reports and trend plots, KPIs and compliance documentation, as well as up-to-the-minute data, with colleagues, customers or suppliers
Materials Connect, a cloud-based library for material data that allows manufacturers or materials suppliers to manage test data and behaviour models for use in product CAE (computer-aided engineering) workflows.
Materials Enrich, which uses the platform’s machine-learning capabilities and cloud-accelerated material behaviour simulations to help users find and simulate optimal materials that may never have been made or measured, thus improving the performance and sustainability of their products.
Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM), which makes it easier for teams to develop 3D-printed metal parts and prepare them for printing using the laser powder bed fusion (PBF) process.

Processes such as DfAM have traditionally been siloed – with at least three different engineers and separate software applications solving problems in isolation. This can be costly and time-consuming and can lead to data being lost. With Nexus, the silos are dismantled so that every engineer involved in a process can access the desktop software they need and connect their tools to work through problems together, in real-time, “in a way that has never before been achieved in the industry”, according to Hexagon.

The apps can be accessed and managed through a Web interface, with a single login and user experience. Customers can invite external users to share information – for example, sharing live metrology trend reports up and down the supply chain. As more apps are connected to Nexus, it will become easier for companies to make improvements to how they work and to solve problems with colleagues in their own company, or across supply chains.

Nexus is intended to offer companies of all sizes the benefits of the cloud without prohibitive costs, lengthy system integration or IT expenses. There is no need to “move to the cloud” because the platform connects desktop and cloud tools together. Because customers only have to share the data that their team members need, performance is optimised and intellectual property is protected. The platform’s open architecture allows large companies to use Nexus to connect teams with their enterprise software platforms, maintaining established business and regulatory processes, while enriching the digital thread with any missing data.

Nexus: aiming to bring innovative minds together and empower them

According to Parth Joshi, chief product and technology officer in Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, although Industry 4.0 is introducing tools, technologies and data sources, “industry has a problem – processes and data sources are often siloed and team members struggle to collaborate across disciplines. This is severely hampering progress.

“If companies are to reap the benefit of smart manufacturing, we need to change the way we work,” he adds. “With Nexus, our aim is simple – to bring innovative minds together across disciplines and empower them. By leveraging Hexagon’s expertise in innovation, and by connecting people, technologies, and data we can help businesses bring ideas to life faster than ever before. We’re excited to see what customers will do with the technology.”

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