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Innovative ship modeling company relocates to St. Pete

Mark Parker

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Digital Twin Marine creates three-dimensional virtual replicas of ships. The company recently relocated to St. Petersburg's waterfront. Photos provided.

Digital Twin Marine utilizes cutting-edge technology to create three-dimensional virtual replicas of expansive ships; its founders believe they have found the ideal location to grow the burgeoning company.

Nicky Bruger and her husband, Tom, launched the company in Fort Lauderdale. They participated in the prominent 35 Mules business incubator in Juno Beach before relocating to St. Petersburg in August.

Digital Twin Marine (DTM) now operates from the Innovation District’s Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. Nicky Bruger, CEO, said the husband-and-wife duo are applying innovative commercial construction technology to the shipping industry.

“We take 360 (degree) cameras and laser scanners out to our clients’ ships,” Bruger explained. “And we capture as much of the ship as they want. When I say ship, I mean large tanker, bulker or container ship. We haven’t done any cruise ships, but they’re in our target market.”

Nicky Bruger (left), CEO of Digital Twin Marine, and her husband, Tom, chief technological officer.

DTM then takes the “incredibly” high-resolution pictures and video to create a 3D, interactive digital twin of the vessel. Bruger said that provides project managers with the insight needed to make critical decisions from an office rather than a shipyard.

She explained that project managers typically rely on outdated two-dimensional pictures or drawings that lack critical information. Bruger used a new home’s blueprints for comparison.

She noted that those do not include appliance positioning or electrical schematics. Bruger said a ship’s design, infrastructure and expensive equipment exacerbate the problem.

“So, being able to show them (clients) exactly where the electric is running, exactly where the exhaust lines are, and where that generator or oily-water separator is allows them to make better decisions heading into the shipyard,” she said. “We want to help them prevent costly mistakes in the shipyard.”

Bruger said DTM replicates ships that are over 100 feet long. She called a length between 500 and 700 feet “the sweet spot.”

The couple – who currently have one other employee in South Florida – travel to every client’s ship. Bruger said most are outside of the area.

Tom, DTM’s chief technology officer, is from St. Petersburg. Bruger also noted the city’s proximity to Port Tampa Bay and Tampa International Airport.

“St. Pete has just turned into such a fun city,” she added. “It’s beautiful being on Tampa Bay, and Florida is a great state for small businesses. I’m from Rochester, New York, and we were not going back there – it is way too cold.

“St. Pete has done a lot to make this a fun, young city.”

In addition to the waterfront Hub’s ambiance, Bruger said the couple appreciates that the facility fosters collaboration among its many tenants. She looks forward to discussions with multiple colleagues who contract with the U.S. Department of Defense and other national agencies.

Bruger said the couple hoped to join the Hub and met with Alison Barlow, executive director of the Innovation District, in June 2022. They toured the facility, but it lacked space for DTM.

“So, we’re thrilled that the stars aligned, and we were able to join this building – because it’s really cool,” Bruger said. “You’d be paying an arm and a leg, normally.”

The $11.7 million, 117-foot research vessel Western Flyer as seen from the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub’s roof. Photo by Lauren Bell.

She looks forward to the facility’s networking opportunities and said St. Pete’s tech community is “really clued into the heartbeat of innovation.” The Brugers still meet monthly with their 35 Mules cohort.

Florida Power & Light Company, a subsidiary of the NextEra Energy global conglomerate, launched the expansive early-stage incubator to support innovation leaders throughout the state. Bruger said the experience provided credibility for their startup.

“Having that additional vetting is really great,” she said. “But they also helped us think through our business from a big company lens. Most of the shipping companies we work for are large companies.”

However, Bruger noted that gated communities dominate South Florida’s landscape. St. Petersburg’s affluent neighborhoods lack those barriers, and Bruger believes that underscores the city’s focus on equality.

Those live-work-play aspects enticed the entrepreneurs to relocate. She believes the city’s qualities will also attract future talent.

“We thought employees would like to live here, and we wanted to live here,” Bruger said.

 

 

 

 

 

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