The future of metaverse in manufacturing
4/18/2022
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The future of metaverse in manufacturing

The idea of a "digital twin" for physical facilities and equipment has long been employed in manufacturing. The consumer-oriented version of this concept is known as the "metaverse," and it's gaining traction among Silicon Valley figures and social networking firms. You might be unable to tell the metaverse from reality for quite a long time. We're likely at least a decade away from this concept becoming real despite the hype. Yet the metaverse's popularity is growing, and its market size expanded to $47.69 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 43.3 percent through 2028.

The first virtual factory set in a metaverse environment was launched in South Korea recently, where visitors can see how plastic screws are manufactured using VR glasses. The factory's settings, such as the injection molding machine's pressure or the production process's speed, can be readily altered without requiring the facility to be shut off. The metaverse's characteristics may revolutionize the factory floor in the future.

Back to basics: What is Metaverse?

The notion of a permanent virtual world has been addressed in science fiction and by visionaries for decades. Defining the metaverse precisely is difficult because it doesn't yet exist completely. A landmark essay by venture capitalist Matthew Ball describes the metaverse as consisting of six primary qualities: Persistence, synchrony, limitless concurrent users, fully functioning economy, digital/physical world, private/public networks, open/closed platforms, interoperability of assets, and crowdsourced content.

We are a long way from achieving Ball's metaverse vision. Nobody knows how long it will take us to get there. It might be decades or years, but most people believe that we are on our way to creating the metaverse, the new and everlasting version of the internet.

We might be far from achieving the metaverse's full potential. Still, many Silicon Valley giants, such as Facebook (now boldly called Meta), Unity, and Nvidia, have already declared themselves as builders of the metaverse. Most companies have concentrated on user-generated games, groups, and other experiences such as concerts or movies regarding the metaverse's current state. It is safe to say that most metaverse projects today focus on the metaverse's social networking features.

Manufacturing today

It's no secret that manufacturing is a complicated procedure and is most likely the most crucial element of supply chain management. Many different manufacturing techniques in today's market prioritize various goals. Many businesses use these methods to get a competitive edge; they often consider labor costs, inventory control, overhead customization, and production speed.

Today's manufacturing approaches are as follows:

  • Make-to-stock method transforms production plans in response to demand expectations using a variety of indicators such as seasonality, market size, and so on.

  • Make-to-order approach requires components to be purchased from numerous suppliers and assembled to create a custom-built product. It is often used for heavy machine production.

  • Make-to-order approach is a mix of the first two methods in which some components may be changed.

The main challenges of these models are long lead times, long-term fixed contracts, and quality control issues from particular producers. In addition, there's a danger in production design since facility layout errors might result in faulty goods and longer delivery times. Most companies make mistakes, often costing them millions or even billions of dollars in repairs. These blunders frequently lead to delays that result in consumer dissatisfaction.

The intersecting paths of manufacturing and metaverse

Even though digital twins have gained popularity in manufacturing, the metaverse will be able to take simulation technology to a new level. While digital twins mimic current equipment, the metaverse does not require connection with real assets.

Simulations in a metaverse setting allow manufacturers to test numerous possibilities and choose the best methods for their businesses. They may not only observe how their equipment is performing in real-time, but they can also forecast outcomes far into the future by doing so.

Simulations that run in real-time are usually referred to as continuous simulations. Continuous simulations allow manufacturers to test various options and devise strategies to optimize and automate their operations.

Simulations in metaverse also allow for comprehensive and successful management of the whole manufacturing process and its future. This technique will be particularly beneficial in the automobile sector. Companies will be able to model how a vehicle's behavior changes with the weather, pollution, or the presence of other vehicles on the road to improve safety and convenience.

The automobile manufacturer, BMW, has implemented a similar technique with its virtual factory, including robots and human workers constructing electrical vehicle drivetrains. The firm copies the production process before expanding it to ensure everything goes as planned. BMW has already used digital twins to perform these functions. Still, executives believe that they will include virtual robots to exchange information and identify the best course of action in the future.

The promised factory

One of the major advantages of metaverse simulations is their level of safety. Because the platform does not have to connect to previously existing assets, it can conduct potentially harmful experiments without risking human workers or robots. For example, one option might be experimenting with robot collisions to improve future safety capabilities. The technology can also improve safety for human workers by simulating their avatars while retrieving tools and putting components together to discover the most efficient methods for avoiding health concerns and accidents.

By predicting how many workers are needed for a job, what machines are required for each application, and other factors such as the weather and traffic conditions, the metaverse will assist companies in cutting costs and waste.

Manufacturers who invest in better virtual spaces to simulate production processes may discover that moving their assets around significantly impacts output. BMW has already simulated one of its factories to plan its manufacturing process more accurately. They can generate real physics and find ways to make their labor more efficient and safer without stopping production to see if there are any changes.

Imagine if the general public had access to easy-to-use tools that allowed them to create and test 3D prototypes of their unique products at any time. More individuals will be able to produce, similar to how YouTube created a whole army of content creators who now make a living creating and distributing videos. Many of these people have lines of goods and create designs for items, establishing a well-used route between creation and selling physical things to the point that it's become a meme.

Virtual reality and the metaverse will significantly change as 3D content creation tools become more accessible. People recognize their potential applications in other sectors, with applications for digital world-building tools in developed niches. Game engines are now being used for architectural renderings, and VR applications for enterprises and consumers (for example, Gravity Sketch) make it easy for them to collaborate to create models that would have previously required specialist training, long lead times, or expensive equipment.

The use of accessible technologies for handling accessibility in the supply chain has resulted in a new generation of manufacturing solutions, which will help companies bridge existing or emerging gaps between physical and digital products. This will eliminate the need for creators to go through intermediaries to get their ideas into the hands of producers, resulting in an exponential increase.