The xR-BOM tree structure: the connection between PLM and immersive content!

More and more manufacturers are implementing product lifecycle management (PLM) tools. The global market is expected to grow by 8.5% annually until 2030 according to research firm Grandview Research.

But connections between PLM tools and immersive tools (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality) may not work. Fortunately, the xR-BOM tree fixes this problem.

Explanations from Sébastien Vannet / Enterprise Architect within Capgemini’s Center of Expertise for Digital Manufacturing.

Colas

Sébastien, according to LinkedIn, you have 24 years of experience in Digital Manufacturing. So I assume you can tell us the meaning of xR-BOM?

Sebastian

BOM stands for Bill of Materials, in the French List of Elements. It is a tree structure, a data structure that manufacturers use to design their products, manufacture them, and manage related services. We talk about MBOM, SBOM, etc. I invite you to read my colleague Cyrille Greffe’s article to learn more.

xR stands for virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

colas

Can you illustrate?

Sebastian

Imagine the blade of an aircraft engine.

When Marcel Dassault draws up the plans for the Ouragan, the French military’s first jet aircraft, he uses a drawing board and his pen.

When Dassault engineers developed the Mirage in the 1980s, they used computer-aided design software. But the blade model remains in two dimensions. Engineers in the design department should print out the diagram to discuss with their colleagues in the production department and suppliers. The 2D model constitutes a more or less fixed contractual element.

Today engineers working on the Combat Air System of the Future are immersed in a virtual environment. With tools like Catia or Créo, they can edit the 3D model of the blade. And the tool immediately transmits the data to all actors. With the expanded enterprise, meetings between design, manufacturing and supplier departments produce far more results than in Marcel Dassault’s pen/paper days!

colas

It is easily photographed. But still?

Sebastian

We can make life easier for the technician responsible for assembling the blade or keeping it in good condition. We equip him with augmented reality glasses and show him assembly or maintenance instructions.

But this requires structuring the data in order to be able to exchange it between different IT tools: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools to develop the blade, Manufacturing Execution System tools (MES) to perform it and Service Life. Cycle Management (SLM) to maintain or recycle it. This is the role of the xR-BOM tree. We are talking about digital continuity.

colas

The interest seems considerable! Are there any technical limitations?

Sebastian

The 3D model needs to be simplified.

In video games, if you want to avoid freezing, you have to respect a minimum level of performance. It’s the same thing there.

Imagine working at Dassault as a mechanical engineer. We attend a meeting in 3D. We wear a virtual reality headset. We simulate the installation of a complete engine on the right wing of a Falcon. Engine internals / blades / chambers are of no use to us. Therefore, they can be deleted from the 3D model without consequence for the dating purpose.

The problem is that currently this simplification is done manually. So we are wasting time.

colas

And why don’t we use some kind of “zip” to reduce the size of the 3D model?

Sebastian

You can reduce the size of the 3D model by faceting.

Take pictures. A photo taken with a good camera weighs about ten megabytes. On my computer, I can easily reduce the size of this file to a hundred kilobytes by compressing it to JPEG format. I can edit and transfer it and all the details remain visible. Faceting works the same way. The model is compact but remains usable by engineers.

Simplifying and compressing the 3D model also helps protect knowledge and avoid duplication. When engineers from Dassault’s design department discuss with their colleagues from the production department, the risk is minimal, they can use a model that contains all the data. But when the model leaves the company, it is better to protect it to avoid reverse engineering.

colas

I would emphasize that reverse engineering consists of reconstructing the production process of a product using the finished product. How can manufacturers reduce risk? Do we glue 3D tape to the model?

Sebastian

Not sure even the engineer can use it! In fact, we simplify them. Take the example of a specification written in Word. I want to send specifications to a supplier. But I don’t want him to be able to edit it. I can put it in JPEG. My supplier will be able to read my specifications with the information in bold and the formatting preserved. However, it won’t be able to copy and paste the text I typed. He won’t be able to edit my text either. The same action for 3D models.

colas

So the engineer can safely send the 3D model of the blade to his supplier. The supplier will not be able to find the exact dimensions of the blade and therefore will not be able to duplicate it. But can the supplier send the notes or changes he made to the blade back to the engineer?

Sebastian

Absolutely. This is called feedback loop management. When you define the data structure, all you need to do is provide a path to manage the data back to the tools that generated the data. Because it must be understood that engineers and technicians working on virtual models use two tools: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools which are used to produce data. And the tools used to visualize them in virtual reality or augmented reality. It is necessary to create a connection between the two so that the model is always up to date.

Additionally, having an efficient connection will become increasingly important as the metaverse evolves and expands. The digital Nike sneaker model displayed in the metaverse is subject to the same questions of data structuring and simplification as the blade of a jet engine.

colas

Ok, so let’s assume that our tech equipped with augmented reality glasses validates a new gesture to mount the blade on the arm, he can “declare” it. And his tool will transmit it to the PLM tool used by the engineer. And how can Capgemini help a manufacturer to structure their data and simplify it?

Sebastian

Capgemini and more specifically the Package-Based Solution (PBS) can help manufacturers from the beginning to the end of their project. In particular to define the use cases, to identify the best tool and to integrate the selected tool into the industrial information system. PBS can also support manufacturers in adopting the tool by communicating with and training future users. Read on this topic the excellent article by my colleague Camille Meslés on digital adoption platforms.

Sebastien VannetEnterprise Architect at the Digital Expertise Center
Production at Capgemini

Colas-DupasProject Manager for Innovation and Transformation at Capgemini

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