Swedish software leader Hexagon AB (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) has been steadily ramping up its digital manufacturing capabilities, including those related to 3D printing. Now, its work in the field is coming to a head with the launch of Nexus, a platform co-engineered with Microsoft that unites a variety of Hexagon tools into a single cloud-based ecosystem.
Similar to Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE, Nexus is designed for stakeholders to collaborate in the cloud, linking respective software and machines within a secure environment. At the same time, users can access new tools, training, and customer support. In addition to Hexagon’s own portfolio, there are third-party apps, a common thread across today’s software ecosystems. Third parties supporting the launch include Oqton, whose manufacturing execution system (MES) will be linked to Nexus, as well as Altium, which creates electronic design automation software.
“We’re happy to bring Oqton’s MES capabilities and IoT machine connectivity to Hexagon’s Nexus platform. Like Hexagon, we are strong believers in open platforms and are excited to offer customers the best tools in the market, with real-time data-driven workflows that span engineering, design, and simulation processes. This next generation platform blends design and manufacturing to reduce lead time while helping to improve outcomes and quality,” said Ben Schrauwen, Founder and Senior Vice President of Oqton.
Among Hexagon’s tools are Metrology Reporting, which links Hexagon with third-party metrology data to report on quality control data from their equipment. Materials Connect is a new library for material data for use in simulation and other applications, while Materials Enrich is a new tool that applies Nexus machine learning and cloud-driven material behavior simulations to enable users to find and simulate optimal materials for their products.
Nexus also includes Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM), a pre-configured solution for teams to work together on parts for metal laser powder bed fusion. It ties Hexagon’s MSC Apex Generative Design and Simufact Additive process simulation software with AM Studio from CADS Additive and Materials Connect. The goal is to open up DfAM, as a concept, to multidisciplinary teams so that every engineer working on a project is able to collaborate in real time.
Given the sheer size of the data involved in such collaboration, the idea of real-time collaboration is quite a feat. Nexus may be relying on a new generation of microchips from developers like NVIDIA that support artificial intelligence (AI) in the cloud. Because Microsoft and NVIDIA are working together on a cloud AI supercomputer, it wouldn’t be surprising if Nexus is dependent on earlier developments between these partners.
“Manufacturing is changing fast. To keep up, stakeholders need agile processes that enable greater insights and efficiencies as they strive to develop and produce products more sustainably. To meet sustainability goals, companies are challenged with optimising design, material use, production and product lifespans in an integrated fashion. The fragmented landscape of point solutions and technologies today makes it difficult to realise the full potential of what’s possible. No one company or vendor has all the answers to scalable, sustainable manufacturing,” said Hexagon president and CEO Paolo Guglielmini. “Nexus is our contribution to help shape this transformation with speed and confidence, breaking the silos currently holding innovation back,” continued Guglielmini. “Whether striving to achieve less waste, less rework, higher quality outcomes or optimise net zero strategies, Nexus will aid manufacturers in capturing and leveraging the operational and sustainability data points to translate their ambitions into initiatives that drive meaningful change.”
It’s interesting to note Guglielmini’s focus on sustainability. While AM has previously been highlighted for its potential to reduce waste and optimize designs for greater efficiency, it is now becoming a de facto tool for achieving sustainability goals. Regardless of the ways in which 3D printing is actually “green,” it is a key component of the current shift to decarbonization.
As a software developer, Hexagon hopes to be one of the gatekeepers of this transformation. It is, therefore, no surprise that it has also invested in one of the most advanced startups in AM for production, Divergent Technologies. The firm’s unique production cell technology, which features automation from design to manufacturing, is the definition of “lean” and, as such, will likely play an important role in the decarbonization of manufacturing at large.