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Unraveling Manufacturing Complexity: The Role of the Digital Thread

by Anna

In the realm of manufacturing, complexity is on the rise, presenting a formidable challenge for industry stakeholders. From intricate systems to tightly integrated components, modern products demand a level of precision and coordination that traditional approaches struggle to accommodate. Professor Ben Morgan, Research Director at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), sheds light on how the concept of the digital thread offers a transformative solution to these challenges.

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For over two decades, the AMRC has been at the forefront of manufacturing innovation, pioneering digital technologies to drive growth and competitiveness in the industry. However, as products become increasingly complex, traditional document-centric approaches prove inadequate in capturing the intricate relationships between components and assemblies. This is where the digital thread emerges as a game-changer.

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The digital thread represents an integrated approach to manufacturing, offering a single source of truth that spans the entire product lifecycle – from concept design to end-of-life. Powered by model-based systems engineering (MBSE), the digital thread provides a cohesive framework for capturing requirements, facilitating design iterations, and optimizing manufacturing processes.

At the heart of the AMRC’s research and development strategy lies a commitment to de-risking and advancing the digital thread technology. By leveraging its diverse capabilities and expertise, the AMRC serves as a testbed for exploring the full potential of the digital thread, paving the way for widespread adoption across the manufacturing ecosystem.

In practical terms, the digital thread promises a host of benefits for manufacturers. These include faster time to market, reduced risk through simulation and predictive analysis, improved efficiency via data-driven optimization, and enhanced sustainability through accurate carbon accounting. Moreover, the digital thread fosters connectivity across the supply chain, enabling seamless collaboration and adaptability.

One notable application of the digital thread is showcased at the MACH 2024 exhibition, where the AMRC team demonstrates its capabilities through the assembly of an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV). This complex manufacturing process exemplifies how different capabilities, from design to assurance, seamlessly interact through a unified digital model.

As we chart the course towards a digital future, the digital thread emerges as a catalyst for innovation and resilience in manufacturing. While challenges lie ahead, the AMRC’s pioneering efforts underscore the transformative potential of this technology, propelling the industry towards a more innovative, sustainable, and prosperous future.

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