Virtual production lines allow Mercedes to see into the future of EV construction.
Mercedes-Benz has started using advanced digital simulation techniques to visualize and plan the production line for models built on its new MMA (Mercedes Modular Architecture) platform.
In what is being called a 'Digital First' approach to production, the company will be able to gauge the efficiency of its new production line long before the cars are actually built without disrupting the production of current compact models like the A-Class and GLA. This virtual ramp-up of an assembly hall is taking place at the manufacturer's plant in Rastatt, Germany. The MMA architecture underpins the dramatic CLA-Class Concept revealed earlier this month, previewing an electric production CLA scheduled to arrive in 2025.
By creating a digital twin of the production line now, Mercedes will be ideally positioned to start churning out EVs on the MMA platform by the middle of this decade. This digital twin is created within the MO360 digital ecosystem and developed with NVIDIA Omniverse.
Mercedes claims this digital approach improves efficiency, saves time, and eliminates defects. It's not only EV production that can be simulated in this way; the same technology is used to visualize the production of hybrids and pure combustion models.
Years before new cars roll off the production line, Mercedes can visualize the precise position of machines and supply routes. At its Hungarian site in Kecskemet, a digital depiction of the entire hall has been created for the first time. Using this artificial intelligence allows the company to develop wide enough aisles and incorporate fire protection measures.
AI also improves the efficiency of paint shops, with the Rastatt facility achieving a 20% reduction in energy savings during the topcoat process. Furthermore, production employees are now using ChatGPT for data processing with the MO360 Data Platform.
Across the industry, automakers are looking at ways to save on production costs and eliminate inefficiencies, especially when it comes to EVs. For Tesla, that will involve the next step of its "gigacasting" method, whereby large presses mold the major structures of its models. Rivian, meanwhile, has copied Tesla by electing to build its own motors in-house instead of relying on external suppliers. But Mercedes is showing us that the savings can begin digitally, long before the assembly process starts.
"Mercedes-Benz is initiating a new era of automotive manufacturing thanks to the integration of Artificial Intelligence, MB.OS, and the digital twin based on NVIDIA Omniverse into the MO360 ecosystem," said Jorg Burzer, Member of the Board of the Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Production, Quality, and Supply Chain Management. "With our new 'Digital First' approach, we unlock efficiency potential even before the launch of our MMA models in our global production network and can accelerate the ramp-up significantly."