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Weaving the EV's Future With the Digital Thread

Johan Gout
By Johan Gout COO, Capture 3D Inc.

In less than ten years from now, 30 percent of new vehicles will likely be electric, according to a 2021 report by Accenture. EV manufacturers must overcome a unique set of challenges to meet future customer expectations. Among them is the challenge to create innovative designs that meet safety requirements, performance criteria and keep costs down in the face of growing competition and a widening skills gap. Solutions to these challenges come by reimagining design, development, assembly, inspection, and the workforce that performs those tasks.

By weaving their organization with the digital thread, EV manufacturers will bring their reimagined future to life.

The digital thread is a communication framework that supports a connected data flow and accessible view of an asset’s data throughout its lifecycle. Essentially, the digital thread enables the communication and review of data forward and backward through enterprise processes, including supply chains. Integrating model-based definition (MBD), sometimes called digital product definition (DPD), into the digital thread provides EV engineers with a single source of truth from the beginning.

MBD needs product manufacturing information (PMI), which is the manufacturing data and metadata for building and measuring a part. It contains design, quality, GD&T, manufacturing, part materials, and other essential data. Packaging it with the 3D CAD model completes the MBD model. By delivering a single file that is easy to share, transfer and interpret seamlessly across the digital thread, it helps automate engineering processes, save time, and cut costs while increasing production speeds.

To connect the MBD front end to the physical realm and quickly achieve digital thread information, leading EV manufacturers have implemented advanced 3D measurement technologies. These metrology-grade 3D scanners efficiently measure and inspect tooling, parts, and assemblies at all manufacturing stages, delivering an accurate, high-quality digital twin of the actual object, which initiates a constant feedback loop. In addition to supplying as-built dimensional characteristics, the software imports MBD/PMI data unlocking digital engineering connectivity for improved product development, more efficient quality assurance, and lean manufacturing processes.

This digital thread supports virtual verification of critical components through digital assembly. For example, the form, fit, and function of the battery tray and its components are crucial to the function of the vehicle’s design; therefore, these trays are manufactured to very tight tolerances. The tray must be flat and situated adequately due to the energy within the battery cells. If assembled incorrectly, the energy creates thermal expansion, leading to torsion, bending the tray, and the car body. Using a digital twin of the battery tray and its components, EV manufacturers achieve virtual dimensional and assembly verification, including GD&T checks, to detect and resolve problems in advance. Automotive manufacturers also use digital assembly analysis to create and evaluate engineering specifications in the 3D space before physical parts go into full production. This methodology also helps traditional automotive OEM companies address their design variability needs when offering gas-powered vehicles on an EV platform.

To achieve a leadership position, successful EV manufacturers will continuously leverage the digital thread and the repository of information it provides to enable modern lean manufacturing strategies. The digital thread is a foundational building block that supports the future of EV innovation that manufacturers will require to thrive in this flourishing industry.

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