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BMW’s Virtual Factory Uses AI to Hone the Assembly Line
The German automaker uses new software from chipmaker Nvidia to simulate train robots and human workers.
German carmaker BMW plans to start making drivetrains for electric vehicles at a vast factory in Regensburg, Bavaria, later in 2021. Well before any new parts roll off the production line, the entire manufacturing process will run in stunningly realistic detail inside a virtual version of the factory.
The simulation allows managers to plan the production process in greater detail than was previously possible, says Markus Grüneisl, who leads production strategy at BMW. “We now have a perfect digital twin of our real-time production,” he says.
The simulation is part of BMW’s plan to use more artificial intelligence in manufacturing. Grüneisl says machine-learning algorithms can simulate robots performing complex maneuvers to find the most efficient process. Over time, BMW wants to use the simulation to have robots learn how to perform increasingly complex jobs.
BMW used a software platform called Omniverse, developed by the chipmaker Nvidia, to recreate the Regensburg production line. Last year, BMW said it was using an AI platform from Nvidia called Isaac to train robots for certain new tasks.
“In the future, I am very positive that we can just put a new robot in this facility, and say, ‘OK, talk with the other robots and find the best way to produce this body,'” Grüneisl says.
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