Interactive exhibits

Hannover Messe organizer harnesses interactive 3D to transform its exhibitors’ trade show experiences

Lindsay James
29 September 2021

4 min read

As one of the world’s largest industrial trade fair operators, Deutsche Messe works to continuously innovate its trade show offerings – including its world-famous Hannover Messe fair. Its latest game-changer: an in-house agency for interactive 3D digital marketing assets that exhibitors can use in any setting, online or in-person. Thomas Rilke, division manager of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and its MEDIA FACTORY, explains the transformational concept.

COMPASS: How did the idea for your new Media Factory come about?

Thomas Rilke: The Deutsche Messe site – or ‘fairground’, as we call it – is the largest in the world. It’s like a small city. If you go back 20 years or so, we would have TV stations from all over the world come to our fairs with their own equipment and their own crews. So we built 12 TV studios to house them.

Thomas Rilke, Division Manager, Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and MEDIA FACTORY. (Image courtesy of Deutsche Messe)

Most media companies now use stock video; so, in late 2020 we transformed those studios into our MEDIA FACTORY – professional streaming studios our customers can use for online events, podcasts, lectures, discussions and more.

Before the pandemic, the demand for digital assets and digital showrooms was growing; over the past year that demand has gone through the roof. Unfortunately, many of our customers don’t have the expertise to create these assets. So we realized that there was a great opportunity for us to play an instrumental role in helping our customers – or any company that needs these assets, regardless of whether they exhibit at one of our shows – to create digital collateral.

What sorts of digital assets are you helping to facilitate?

TR: We’ve joined forces with third-party suppliers who have created truly ground-breaking technology that uses a new standard called glTF. It can take an engineer’s 3D product data and turn it into web-ready, interactive and reusable 3D assets to create a digital showroom. The fact that these are lightweight assets are what make them so revolutionary. You could always share 3D engineering drawings with your customers – if you and they had the right software and enough computing power. But now you can share them with anyone who has a simple web browser – even on their mobiles.

This will be incredibly beneficial, not only for our customers but for any company that recognizes the need to compete in the digital world. No longer do they need to build a physical product and then get media teams in to video it – this technology will save them considerable amounts of time, and a lot of money too.

One great example is the Fraunhofer IPA [Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation] spin-off project KUTOA, which created a mobile lab robot called KEVIN. KEVIN is designed to automate repetitive, manual laboratory work. Creating digital marketing assets from design data allowed the KUTOA team to expedite KEVIN's development and attract investors before the design prototype robot was built.

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to turn and flip this glTF model of KEVIN. (Image © KUTOA)

How will this capability benefit Deutsche Messe?

TR: It means we can get closer to our customers – wherever they are in the world – since they will be able to access the tools virtually. It also means that more of our customers will be equipped to take a more hybrid approach to trade shows in the future, and this is where things are heading.

It’s important to recognize that 90% of our events are for really technical industries. Our typical exhibitors are machinery companies, or manufacturers of complicated components for machinery. They seldom build single products. They may have 30 or 40 different models, and many of these models can be customized, resulting in an almost infinite number of variations. So, you see, it’s impossible to showcase their entire offering at a physical event, which may mean they miss out on potential business.

By having really impressive 3D digital assets at physical events, our customers can present their entire product offering in a very realistic way. Visitors can even see inside the machines – how they’re built, how they work.”

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to turn and flip this glTF model of a jigsaw. (Image © 3DEXCITE)

By having really impressive 3D digital assets at physical events, our customers can present their entire product offering in a very realistic way. Visitors can even see inside the machines – how they’re built, how they work – including functionality that sometimes is hidden behind, under or inside other structures.

These digital assets can also be reused in a variety of ways; not just at our trade shows, but at any event. In fact, our exhibiting customers are increasingly asking us for support at smaller, more focused events outside of trade fairs, because they want to be in permanent digital contact with their customers. The digital assets we create often form the basis of a digital showroom and add value to press conferences, at customer events, in social media and at customer meetings, either digital or face-to-face.

There is, of course, value for us at Deutsche Messe too. Our glTF capability lets us serve our customers in ways that no other trade show can match.

What response have you seen so far, and how soon do you expect to offer these new services?

TR: We have just run an email campaign outlining everything we hope to offer. We sent this to 1 million clients around the world and had a 10% open rate and a 2% reaction rate. For us, this is terrific. It shows that there is a big demand for these services.  We hope to be ready to launch in the next month. But that will be just the start – we also have something even more exciting in the pipeline.

Tell us more!  

TR: We see the digital asset production offering as the first step. The second will be the creation of an industry platform.

Let me explain: At the moment, if you go to an industry fair, you look up the exhibition website and find the companies you want to visit, along with the booth number. The website is mostly used immediately before, during and after the fair.

A typical exhibition website and database only provides the name of the company, the description of their products and where they can be found on the exhibition floor. You could call this a database 1.0.

What we want to build is a database 4.0. Using digital platform capabilities, along with those digital assets created through our MEDIA FACTORY, we can better showcase everything our exhibitors are offering. Visitors will be able to access so much more about the products they are interested in – their functionality, the technologies they can be used in conjunction with, and the platforms they integrate with, for example.

Not only this, but we see our industry platform facilitating collaboration between all the different players. Not only will visitors have the chance to connect with exhibitors, but they can connect with other like-minded visitors, who may have valuable experience to share.

This is where it really gets exciting. It will massively transform the trade show experience for visitors, for exhibitors – in fact, for everyone involved.

To discover even more glTF capabilities, click here, scroll down to “Meet Green Turtle Prototype in 3D” and click the “3DPlay” button. You can also learn more about:

Smart sustainment

Virtual twin experiences help NATO improve aging aircrafts’ mission-readiness

Tony Velocci
22 September 2021

6 min read

Frequent deployments of aging defense systems have taken a toll on the NATO allies’ military mission-readiness, sending government officials in search of smart strategies for improving uptime. Some have turned to virtual twin experiences – interactive, scientifically accurate 3D computer models that enable rapid testing and refinement of different strategies – to plan updates that will extend the assets’ useful lives and lower maintenance costs for legacy airframes.

Keeping aging aircraft flying long past their originally intended retirement dates is a growing challenge for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries concerned with unacceptably low mission-readiness rates – the percentage of time that defense assets are in adequate condition to perform at least one mission.

In the US, for example, only three out of 50 aircraft types met their mission-capability goals of 70% for most of the fiscal 2011-2019 period, the US Government Accountability Office recently reported.

Frequent deployments of decades-old aircraft over the past 20 years have taken a toll, particularly on American, British and French airplanes and helicopters. Heavy demands, combined with aging aircraft, requires more maintenance, upgrades and enhancements – also known as sustainment – for the aircraft to remain operational beyond their expected lifespans.

In contrast, commercial airline operators consider anything less than 98% ready-to-fly performance of their aircraft fleets unacceptable.


The B-1B aircraft’s mission-readiness rate in 2017; but the target for US defense systems is 80%.

Adding to the pressure to extend the life of existing defense assets: NATO-member countries’ static defense budgets, exacerbated by the high cost of new technology. The combination makes it extremely to replace aging equipment with new systems, which can then take 10-15 years or more to develop and put into operation.

One increasingly popular strategy for troubleshooting, repairing or upgrading aircraft? Using virtual twin experiences, which allow crews to visualize issues in interactive 3D and simulate the results of different approaches, to enable quick identification of optimal maintenance strategies.

“We’re building a blueprint for a unique approach to improving mission-readiness of critical defense systems – a blueprint that will become prevalent across the military – while helping the government to develop the requirements needed to standardize what we’re doing,” said Melinda Laubach-Hock, director of sustainment at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR). “When other contractors follow in our footsteps, government customers will understand the level of fidelity they need in these computer models.”

Boosting mission readiness with virtual twins

NIAR, for example, is spearheading a project to demonstrate how virtual twin experiences can improve the sustainment of legacy airframes.

NIAR’s goal, which it is pursuing in cooperation with industry and government partners, is to help boost mission readiness of certain defense systems, including the B-1B Lancer bomber and the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter, while reducing maintenance costs.

The B-1 Bomber is one key aircraft being disassembled, scanned,and reassembled as 3D models at the NIAR-NEST facility to demonstrate how virtual twin experiences can improve the sustainment of legacy airframes. (Image courtesy of NIAR)

Both aircraft were designed and manufactured mostly from paper drawings decades ago, but planned retirements for the B-1B and the UH-60L are now 2040 and 2050, respectively. Converting those drawings to interactive virtual twin experiences that enable rapid analysis of various sustainable strategies should greatly accelerate maintenance teams’ ability to identify, simulate, test, verify and implement maintenance strategies and upgrades.

Additional US Army and Air Force equipment will undergo the same process. The F-16 Falcon – more than 2,200 are deployed by air forces around the world – will be the next program targeted for virtualization. No retirement date has been set for the F-16, which entered operational service with the US Air Force in 1980. 

A memo from then-US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, establishing a goal of 80% mission capability for certain defense systems, prompted the NIAR initiative. For example, the B-1B’s mission capability was less than 53% in 2017. Congress responded to Mattis’ call to action by authorizing funding to employ technology to improve readiness.

“We’re building a blueprint for a unique approach to improving mission-readiness of critical defense systems.”

Melinda Laubach-Hock, Director of Sustainment, NIAR

While NIAR’s work may not bring the B-1B and UH-60L fleets’ readiness up to Mattis’ 80% target, the institute and its partners are confident of achieving significant improvements, said Laubach-Hock.

NIAR and its government partners strategically selected airframes for the program, targeting those where the addition of virtual twin technology will have the largest impact in extending the platforms’ service life. As a result, “now we’re starting to see military leaders include funding for digital engineering,” Laubach-Hock said.

Forecasting the future

The two current programs involve reverse engineering both aircraft, beginning with disassembling them down to the nuts and bolts and digitally scanning nearly every part to create 3D models. Using the scan data and legacy engineering drawings as a template, the NIAR team will then create manufacturing-quality, 3D computer-aided design (CAD) models. These models will be digitally reassembled to create the airframe’s virtual twin, an exact digital model of the airplane as it exists in the physical world.

In addition to the geometrically correct virtual twin, the team will develop high-fidelity engineering models and validated them, using stress and strain data obtained either through structural tests or airframe operation. Once validated, virtual “loads” can be applied to these models to forecast structural failures, fatigue, corrosion and cracking under different flight conditions over time – a predictive maintenance capability that largely eliminates the age-old approach of only repairing something after it breaks.

As of mid-summer 2021, NIAR is about halfway through the two-year UH-60L program and was digitally reassembling the rotorcraft. In parallel, a NIAR technical team is about 18 months into the six-year B-1B program and preparing to complete the digital modeling of its wing structure.

The UH-60L Black Hawk, with horizontal stabilizer, tail rotor pylon and tailcone are being disassembled, scanned and 3D-modeled to create a virtual twin of the aircraft. (Image courtesy of NIAR)

By producing a physics-based virtual twin, engineers can capture the digital heartbeat of entire defense systems. Each one will serve as a living record. People who service these aircraft will be able to use predictive analytics – the “experience” portion of virtual twin experiences – to devise and validate appropriate maintenance schedules and processes to optimize mission-readiness – including predicting when a specific part should be replaced, based on the mission profile and flight hours.

“We’re using digital technology to look at potential problems that could occur 10 or 15 years from now, so the Army and Air Force can become very proactive when it comes to sustaining their assets instead of having to be reactive,” Laubach-Hock said. “The virtual twin provides a single authoritative source of truth for all the data needed to maintain legacy systems.”

France’s 10-year plan

The concept of coupling virtual twins with the power of big data and analytics to achieve smart sustainment isn’t unique to the US Department of Defense.

In France, a business innovation platform for creating and managing virtual twin experiences is the centerpiece of a 10-year maintenance agreement between airframe manufacturer Dassault Aviation and the Aviation Maintenance Division of the French Ministry of Armed Forces. The project’s goal: to optimize the availability of 152 French Air Force and Navy Rafale fighter aircraft, whose readiness hovers around 70%, a Paris-based defense industry consultant said. The RAVEL (RAfale VEticalLise) contract covers most of the airframe of the multi-role aircraft, which is expected to remain in service beyond 2050, GIFAS, the French aerospace industry trade organization, reports.

Long term, Dassault Aviation expects to improve the availability, or “Maintenance in Operational Condition” (MCO), of the Rafale fleet to at least 76%. In addition, the ministry reports that extended logistics services will enable the fleet to carry out more operational missions. Predictive maintenance is considered the key to achieving this level of mission readiness, so the program’s integrated data environment is built on a common data model covering a defense system’s entire lifecycle, with all data relationships managed by the platform.

Using scanned parts and legacy engineering drawings as a template, the NIAR team creates manufacturing-quality, 3D, computer-aided design (CAD) models of the aircraft. (Image courtesy of NIAR)

The platform collects all Rafale usage across the fleet, which enables monitoring of RAVEL contract-stipulated performances, collects lessons learned and enriches predictive maintenance algorithms. It also can securely process data from the fleet and generate individual aircraft “health records.”

Thus far, France is the only European NATO member that has implemented the virtual twin approach to improving mission readiness. NATO’s other European members understand the concept but are not yet prepared to implement smart sustainment. As one European aerospace and defense consultant with close ties to NATO put it: “They’re still trying to figure out the art of the possible.”  

Future uses

In service, every aircraft behaves differently and requires specific maintenance based on its operational history. Therefore, a virtual twin experience may be integrated with individual vehicle health and usage monitoring systems to provide fleet operating insights. On-board sensor data and usage information for each aircraft provides a rich cache of data for analysis, to better understand system performance and reliability.

“A virtual twin allows the development team to perform more detailed analyses earlier, ensures a perfect fit during initial production and allows testing to begin earlier. This reduces risk.”

Dina Halvorsen, Program Director, Sikorsky Aircraft

Beyond sustainment, many defense contractors now employ virtual twins to develop new aircraft.

“The payoff of a virtual twin manifests itself across the entire lifecycle of the product – design, production and sustainment,” said Dina Halvorsen, program director at Sikorsky Aircraft, which manufactures the UH-60L. “It manifests itself in design with lower development costs and reduced time to field the product. A virtual twin allows the development team to perform more detailed analyses earlier, ensures a perfect fit during initial production and allows testing to begin earlier. This reduces risk.”

For NATO in general and the US Department of Defense (DoD) in particular, the use of virtual twins represents a new paradigm for extending the operational life of complex hardware.

“It’s not a matter of whether we’re going to apply this technology to more platforms, including ground vehicles, but rather what are we going to do next, based on the greatest need,” Laubach-Hock said.

Read more about the challenges and opportunities facing the defense industry today.

Taking sustainable packaging to market faster

Using 3D simulation, Metsä Board has reduced time to market by 85%

15 September 2021

4 min read

Leading European paperboard producer Metsä Board, which makes premium lightweight paperboards from wood fibers, strives to be a frontrunner in sustainability and customer service. Markku Leskelä, the company’s Vice President of Research and Product Development, and Pekka Suokas, its R&D Manager, spoke with Compass about how 3D simulations help them achieve these goals.

COMPASS: Please tell us about Metsä Board and your products. What makes your organization unique?

Markku Leskelä: We manufacture paperboard and provide design services for recyclable packaging made from certified wood fiber. It’s our approach to engineering that makes us unique. We aim to meet the most demanding packaging needs quickly, cost-efficiently and, most of all, sustainably.

As the global need for packaging grows, so does the need to create new, sustainable solutions that can replace fossil-based materials. We want to be a forerunner in this regard, so we strive for products that are light, recyclable and compostable. We are always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and we aim for fossil-free production and products by 2030.

Metsä Board manufactures paperboard made from certified wood fiber and provides design services for recyclable packaging used in CPG and Pharmaceuticals. (Image © Metsä Board)

Who are your customers? Why do they choose Metsä Board over the competition?

ML: We serve a wide range of customers around the globe who operate in a variety of industries, such as CPG [consumer packaged goods] and pharmaceuticals. In fact, consumers use millions of packages made of Metsä Board paperboards every day. Our main market is Europe, followed closely by the Americas, but we are seeing a growing demand from companies across Asia-Pacific, too.

Our customers value the high and consistent quality of our products, based on the excellence of our board mills and tailor-made, high-quality pulp. But they don’t just choose us for our technical performance; they value our commitment to sustainable development, too. Indeed, as reducing packaging waste becomes a global priority, our customers increasingly prioritize sustainability. This is where we want to excel. By optimizing the materials and structure of packaging, we can provide our customers with even more sustainable and high-performing packaging solutions. And, through the introduction of our Metsä Board 360 Services, we can go even further.

“Compared to physical prototyping, we can recommend optimum paperboard and even design improvements 85% quicker.”

Markku Leskelä
Vice President of Research and Product Development, Metsä Board

What is Metsä Board 360 Services?

ML: Metsä Board 360 Services are designed to help our customers create the best solution for their needs while lowering the environmental impact of their packaging. Using advanced simulation technologies, we can create virtual twins of our customers’ existing packaging solutions and work out how they perform against our new innovations, in a variety of simulated environments. We can improve functionality, recyclability and brand impact in this virtual world, maximizing product performance while minimizing both carbon footprint and costs. What’s more, we can do this incredibly fast compared to physical prototyping. We can recommend optimum paperboard and even design improvements 85% quicker. This is quite a coup, and is being received very positively by our customers so far.

Pekka Suokas: Metsä Board 360 Services are facilitating a significant step-change in the way we work. As an example, our traditional approach was to make a prototype package, which then had to be transported to be tested. Based on the test results, we would then adapt the design and the process would start again. It was time-consuming and costly – and our customers do not have abundant amounts of time or money. By creating 3D virtual twins of products in the computer, we eliminate the physical prototyping stage and deliver a much better customer experience at the same time.

What is your major business challenge? And do the shifting demands of the customers you serve create additional complexity?

ML: We want to meet with the increasing demand in line with customer needs.  CPG customers, for example, are often preparing for Christmas activity as early as spring, so we need to be equipped for this. Additional demand has arisen because of the pandemic, which gave way to a huge rise in e-commerce activity, as well as increased needs from the pharma industry.

The e-commerce market has unique packaging needs, which are different from brick-and-mortar retail. There are far more touchpoints, as packages are unloaded and reloaded multiple times before they reach the recipient. This means you need optimum paperboard and packaging design to withstand this heavy handling, while ensuring that packages are lightweight and have as small a carbon footprint as possible.

The pharma industry has different demands. It requires packaging that meets stringent regulations and can withstand extreme temperatures. Take our packaging that stored and transported COVID-19 vaccines, for example. It needed to retain its specified thickness, mechanical strength and water absorption properties – even at temperatures as low as -70 degrees Celsius [-94 degrees Fahrenheit].

How does 3D simulation technology help you meet these challenges?

“By creating 3D virtual twins of products in the computer, we eliminate the physical prototyping stage and deliver a much better customer experience at the same time.”

Pekka Suokas
R&D Manager, Metsä Board

PS: Simulation helps us test an almost infinite number of applications of our products, and fast. When it comes to CPG products, we can achieve the optimal balance between strength, size and performance and save costs in the process. By reducing the weight of our paperboard we can achieve notable material savings. We produce 1.3 million tons of paperboard every year; if all of that were used to produce, for example, cereal packages weighing 19 grams each, it would be enough to make 160 million packages a day. So cutting the paperboard weight by just 1% would save the amount of natural resources needed to produce 1.6 million packages a day.

By using virtual twin experiences, Metsä Board saves time and cost and can quickly create product design applications that achieve the appropriate strength, size and performance requirements. (Image © Metsä Board)

Simulation offers similar benefits for our pharma customers. We can run virtual simulations of how our packaging performs at -70 degrees Celsius [-94 degrees Fahrenheit] and combine transportation tests with board-conditioning tests. We can do all of this in as little as a day, instead of the weeks it would have taken using physical prototyping and testing.

What are the next steps in your strategy in the short and long term?

PS: Our success will be defined by how fast we can recommend optimum paperboard, develop new solutions and deliver them to our customers. I have no doubt that simulation will be helpful to achieve this; using this kind of advanced technology, we will be able to achieve more than conventional suppliers, and faster too. I’m excited about the new possibilities and interesting applications that simulation will facilitate in the future.

Learn more about sustainable packaging

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