Microsoft to Boost Hexagon’s Nexus Platform for Agile Manufacturing

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Swedish software leader Hexagon (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) are teaming up once again to make manufacturing much easier and faster. Through their latest collaboration, they are enhancing Nexus, a digital platform they engineered together in 2023. This platform uses modern cloud technology to connect various manufacturing and engineering systems. By integrating advanced simulations and artificial intelligence (AI), Nexus boosts productivity and speeds up the design and manufacturing processes.

After its launch, Nexus became essential for manufacturers seeking a unified approach to their operations. With Hexagon’s expertise in sensor, software, and autonomous technologies and Microsoft’s robust cloud infrastructure and AI, the platform facilitates seamless integration of real-world data with virtual models. This combination helps manufacturers visualize, analyze, and improve their production processes in real-time.

The latest updates to Nexus, powered by Hexagon’s new collaboration with Microsoft, focus on expanding its capabilities. Integrating the Fluid Framework (a technology for real-time data collaboration) with Microsoft 365 (a suite of cloud-based productivity tools) enhances faster data sharing and streamlines workflows, reducing the time from concept to production. Moreover, including Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service allows for more complex simulations and real-time data feeds, allowing engineers to instantly adjust designs based on these inputs. These enhancements leverage digital twin technologies, facilitating real-time co-engineering and decision-making processes. This connectivity is particularly vital to the manufacturing industry, helping it move towards more collaborative and agile workflows, where decisions must be made quickly and confidently.

The strategic enhancements to Nexus also aim to address the growing skills gap in the manufacturing sector. By incorporating AI-driven tutorials and support tools, the platform helps less experienced employees quickly learn and adapt to complex manufacturing tasks and elevates the overall expertise within companies.

Furthermore, the Nexus platform has been important in advancing 3D printing within the manufacturing sector. Specifically designed to support Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM), Nexus enables multidisciplinary teams to collaborate on parts for metal laser powder bed fusion in real-time. This collaboration is facilitated by integrating Hexagon’s MSC Apex Generative Design and Simufact Additive process simulation software with AM Studio from CADS Additive and Materials Connect. By leveraging the platform’s capabilities, engineers can optimize designs for 3D printing, ensuring that each part is designed efficiently and manufactured with the highest quality standards.

“At Hexagon, we’re on a mission to empower the workforce by presenting them with the best available information as soon as possible and helping them close the gap between their optimal-performance virtual designs and the physical products that they manufacture,” explains Stephen Graham, EVP and General Manager Nexus at Hexagon. “We have achieved a huge amount with Microsoft in a few short months by collaborating closely and applying their best cloud technologies to unlock new ways of collaborating and sharing data. Our strategic partnership takes this to the next level, driving a shared vision and go-to-market to help our customers connect their Hexagon tools and products with third-party engineering systems and Microsoft 365.”

Hexagon’s simulation software. Image courtesy of Hexagon.

The collaboration goes beyond just enhancing Nexus; it’s about transforming manufacturers’ operations. The companies point out that they have partnered closely on the development and scaling of the open-source Fluid Framework and Azure Fluid Relay service to support the real-time sharing of data across a wide range of manufacturing industry processes and systems, allowing engineers to access and utilize data instantly, no matter where it was initially generated. Under the new partnership, the Microsoft 365 ecosystem will plug into this data layer, enabling customers to connect their day-to-day office documents and processes with manufacturing tools.

According to Hexagon and Microsoft, this feature allows teams to innovate with the tools they already use; for example, tooling cost data from a Microsoft Excel worksheet could be easily shared with a CAM programmer, simplifying work practices and decision-making between roles.

Additionally, using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service within Nexus brings a new dimension of intelligence to manufacturing. It automates routine tasks and provides predictive insights that help manufacturers optimize operations before committing to costly production runs. This AI integration is particularly beneficial for complex simulations and adjusting designs in real-time.

CAD CAM software. Image courtesy of Hexagon.

These technological advances are not just about speeding up processes but also about making them smarter and more connected. By incorporating Microsoft’s advanced AI and computing capabilities, Hexagon can offer fast and powerful solutions. The strategic use of digital twin technology and real-time data feeds into Nexus, allowing for a more dynamic approach to manufacturing, where decisions can be made quickly, and designs can be optimized based on the latest available data.

As Microsoft VP Aleš Holeček describes, “Microsoft’s collaboration with Hexagon is driven by a shared belief that the future of work and productivity is grounded in collaboration. Similar to how Microsoft applied the Fluid Framework to our own Microsoft 365 applications, Hexagon has extended that same open-source data fabric to manufacturing problems, enabling real-time collaboration between the many engineering disciplines it takes to make a great product through its Nexus platform running on Microsoft Azure.”

Nexus is now designed to bridge the gap between virtual planning and real-world execution, making it easier for companies to translate digital designs into tangible products. The partnership is committed to unlocking new ways of collaborating and sharing data, which is key to driving innovation and productivity in today’s competitive manufacturing landscape.

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