Digital Twins -
A revolutionary technology?
One of the buzz words that is frequently mentioned along with the Metaverse, Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence is the Digital Twin. TheDigital Twin enables new potential for companies to improve their processes and save costs in the long termthrough real-time data andsimulations.
What is a Digital Twin?
A digital twin is a digital replica of a real process, a physical plant, a product or a system. The digital replica and real object are connected by a continuous flow of information.
More precisely, a dynamic and reciprocal connection occurs in which both the physical and the virtual twin learn from each other and develop each other further. This enables companies to perform analysis, forecasting and optimization of process performance.
Different levels of the Digital Twin
Optimization and analysis have always been an important part of industrial companies to improve their processes. Digital twins have recently become an essential part of this, depending on their type and level of sophistication.
What are the levels of Digital Twins?
At the simplest level, the Digital Twin is just a digital model used to replicate the real product as a simulation.
With this, a manual data flow takes place between the physical and the digital object. This means that a change to one of the objects has no direct influence on the other object.
In the second stage, there is the digital shadow. This involves an automatic data flow from the physical object or process to the digital object. So when changes are made to the physical object, the digital shadow is also affected.
Conversely, however, a change to the digital shadow has no effect on the physical counterpart.
The final stage is finally the real Digital Twin. In this, there is a constant exchange of data between the physical and digital object in real time. The digital object can also change the physical object.
True digital twins are technically highly complex and difficult to implement. Only with the help of good real-time data transmission can the digital twin realize its full potential.
The use of the Digital Twin in various industries
Digital twins are already being used today in various industries such as healthcare, automotive, transportation, and energy to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase safety.
Heading if needed
NASA, for example, uses Digital Twins in research to predict aircraft conditions in a launch environment.
BMW has already built a digital twin for a factory that enables AI-based simulations through a production planning software tool. According to the company, this has already resulted in a 20-30% increase in efficiency in the planning of processes.
Even entire facilities such as ports can be represented as digital twins. Port of Rotterdam officials are working on this as part of their “Port Vision 2030.” This should provide for more efficient ship handling and automation operations.
The types of Digital Twin
Digital twins can be divided into different types – mostly based on their size and complexity. Four types of digital twins are defined as follows:
Digital twin for single part:
This type of Digital Twin represents the model of a single part of the production system. Although the technology is typically used on a larger scale, it is still possible to represent smaller units of an operation.
Digital twin for a plant:
By combining several single-part twins, which are connected to each other, a coherent system of a twin is formed. This makes it possible to build a better understanding of how the different parts of the plant interact with each other.
The analysis enables conclusions that can improve both the digital twins of the individual parts, but also of the plant.
Digital twin for a system:
The next level or type of digital twins is the connection of multiple assets into a holistic system. This allows the various interactions within a system to be digitally simulated and analyzed.
The knowledge gained is much more comprehensive, as it is possible to test the system for the consequences of different situations and understand it in a holistic overview.
Digital twin of a complete process:
In the complete Digital Twin model, all of a company’s systems are brought together to represent the different processes from start to finish. The digital twin of a complete process makes it possible to fully analyze the generated data, identify improvements and synergies holistically, and make better decisions.
Where can you use Digital Twins?
The advantages of Digital Twins
Digital twins can lead to major process improvements and thus also cost optimization in many industries and sectors. The benefits and advantages of this technology are wide-ranging:
- Process optimizations through simulations supported by artificial intelligence
- Improved predictive maintenance and easier error analysis during maintenance work
- Evaluation of the machine condition during operation
- Faster and more versatile development of prototypes in the development phase
- Analysis of product configurations under various influencing factors
- Use of product data of existing products and derivation of necessary improvements for new products
Digital Twins are only at the beginning
Digital Twins’ technologies and capabilities will continue to evolve.
Even though digital twins can already deliver real benefits for companies today, they are still at the beginning of their full potential. In the future, better data transmission, AI-based analysis and simulations will further mature this technology.
It is important that companies recognize the opportunities and actively work to meet the technical requirements for building digital twins, such as information modeling, synchronization of information, APIs, connectivity, provisioning, security, and interoperability.
We help you to pick the right partners from this growing market and accompany you in the early planning as well as during the whole process.