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Universal Model Pipelines: Fuelling the Future of Automotive Customer Experiences with OpenUSD

The state of automotive 3D model pipelines is a strategic topic that has the potential to drive and disrupt our industry sooner rather than later - so much so that we believe it should be on the agenda of every automotive leader that manages 3D data. 

If we reflect honestly on the 3D model pipelines that currently exist within automotive OEMs, many would admit that the situation has become both dysfunctional and unsustainable, posing many challenges that can only be overcome by throwing more resources at it.   

So, let’s dive into the topic of 3D model pipelines, including the promise and potential of a universal 3D data format for the automotive industry. This will include how ZeroLight is pioneering the use of OpenUSD and NVIDIA Omniverse, the platform for developing interoperable 3D workflows and Universal Scene Description (OpenUSD) applications, in its development of a universal model pipeline.

The fundamental issue that creates pressure in our 3D digital pipelines is the explosion in content that is expected to be produced downstream from the original design and product data models; this is illustrated in the graphic below.

These content-hungry channels are ‌driven by customer expectations of a high-quality, connected, and personalised customer journey. They are also being driven by internal stakeholder expectations to stay at the forefront of the latest innovations.

Supplying product-accurate, up-to-date, high-quality 3D models in multiple formats so that all of this content can be produced is a big challenge for automotive visualisation teams, often referred to as 3D garage teams. 

Let’s take a look at a simplified representation of how this might be approached.

  1. Let’s start with the internal teams and agencies that automotive brands work with to create the range of visual content that we have just seen. 
  1. To do this, visualisation teams will typically work in their chosen graphics engine or 3D software application, in the necessary format for that toolset. 
  1. To enable them to do their work, they need model data, which they will typically convert into their chosen format in a manual process that might take anywhere up to 3 months. 
  1. The data they are converting from, commonly called a Marketing Master Model, is created from design data CAD.

One of the main reasons this is inefficient is the duplicated model conversion effort for each team and engine - which occurs not just once, but as many times as needed to maintain the model with updates throughout its lifecycle in multiple markets around the world.

Our observation at ZeroLight is that operating in this landscape creates three scenarios for an organisation’s digital pipeline. 

The first scenario is ‘The Vulnerable Pipeline’, where an organisation has committed to one 3D format that is effective in creating the content it needs. However, by being committed in this way, the organisation becomes exposed to price increases, business model changes, the engine falling out of fashion, and unsatisfactory support or roadmaps. 

The second scenario is ‘The Constrained Pipeline’, where an organisation is also committed to a single engine or format, but has a real and current need to adopt new formats to improve the quality or scale of its sales and marketing content. However, the associated cost and effort of achieving this are too high, and the team remains rigidly constrained to its current options. 

The third scenario is ‘The Stretched Pipeline’, where an organisation is actively supporting multiple formats. However, this is an expensive commitment and consumes a lot of valuable company resources. These organisations become stretched, particularly in today’s cost-saving climate.

At ZeroLight, we believe that the adoption of a universal data format has enormous potential for the industry to address these challenges. With a decade of experience working in and amongst these pipelines and problems, we understand the opportunity as well as anyone.  

That’s why we have invested in technology that automatically takes existing model data into a universal model pipeline and format, so we can eliminate the duplicated manual work of taking models into multiple packages for different tools such as Unity and Unreal, allowing us to focus instead on building amazing customer experiences. ZeroLight is pioneering the use of OpenUSD and  NVIDIA Omniverse in its exploration and creation of a universal model pipeline.

To find out more, you can watch our recent on-demand webinar with NVIDIA and Volkswagen, ‘Universal Model Pipelines: Fuelling the Future of Automotive Customer Experiences.’ You can also explore how NVIDIA Omniverse is driving the adoption of OpenUSD and supporting the development of next-generation 3D automotive configurators here.