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The virtual twin

The Pre-Series Center in Wolfsburg uses 3-D models to assist prototype assembly worldwide.

Employees at the Pre-Series Center in Wolfsburg work on big puzzles. Part by part, they put entire cars together, all in digital form on the computer. Their job is to create a virtual twin of a real test vehicle, such as a new Golf or Passat, in a 3-D stage of development. This digital twin serves as a kind of safety net for ensuring the further development and assembly of a new car.

The 3-D data are sent to prototype workshops throughout the world via an internal network. Employees, whether they are located in Brazil, Mexico, China, or Germany, need only a few clicks or taps on their screens to see precisely where a prototype’s component fits into the car. They can view the smallest details of each component, and even find out the amount of force needed to screw a small bolt inside the engine compartment. This is how virtual assistance helps to ensure at such an early stage that the cars will later move smoothly through the production processes.

Employees can view the 3-D data at their work stations without needing special previous experience or language skills. Maic Leingang, who heads the Virtual Prototype Control team, explains that the system is “extremely easy to navigate, and the controls are as intuitive as those of a tablet, regardless of what language you speak.”
 
3-D models support assembly and testing work in a variety of ways. For example, they enable production planners to determine early in the process whether a switch in the door panel actually fits the way it should. “Our work helps people in design, quality assurance, body construction, and assembly,” says Leingang. “This is because the ‘digital twin’ lets our colleagues know early on what exactly needs to be done when mounting a particular component.”

3-D prototypes for sites around the world

The 23-member Virtual Prototype team at Wolfsburg’s Pre-Series Center made more than 70 prototypes and concept cars in 2015 and sent these virtual creations to sites around the world. It takes more than seven weeks to construct a 3-D prototype from around 2,500 components.