Digital Twins to change the face of manufacturing

Posted on 2 May 2017 by The Manufacturer

The concept of ‘Digital Twins’ will change how the industry performs, with 85% of Internet of Things-enabled platforms having digital twin functionality within the next five years, according to a recent global report.

IIOT HSO Machine Learning Technology Digital Twins Industry 4
Digital twins may represent the next step in predictive maintenance.

Digital twins are also expected to become a standard capability and not just an additional consideration by 2021, according to the latest report from Research and Markets.

The research reveals that more than 90% of software engineers recognised a need for Internet of Things (IoT) API’s and platform integration with digital twinning in the near future.

Additionally, 75% of the executives surveyed stated that they planned to incorporate digital twinning within their operations by 2020.

What are digital twins?

Digital twins may represent the next step in predictive maintenance. A virtual representation of a product accompanies the physical asset across its entire lifecycle –  through design, engineering, testing, manufacturing, distribution and end-use.

A digital twin is created with high-precision 3D CAD technology, and holds all the functions and properties of the planned or manufactured physical product. Current applications for digital twin technology include: monitoring, simulation, and remote monitoring; with further uses expected to be identified as the technology matures.

The physical and digital twins are connected to one another throughout their entire life cycles, with sensors fitted to the physical product sending a constant stream of data for analysis to the virtual machine.

A management system typically gathers and stores this data, and prepares it for comparison against specifications already compiled as to how the asset would optimally function. If a discrepancy were to be detected, then engineers can test potential solutions directly on the digital twin to evaluate its effectiveness, significantly increasing the time and appropriateness of response.

Digital twins in action

The technology is currently being employed to improve driver and car performance in the high-stakes world of Formula 1. Virtually, the digital twin runs exactly the same race as the physical car, including road conditions, weather and temperature. Such a system can help prevent costly – and potentially, life-threatening – malfunctions through enhanced predictive analysis capabilities.

It’s clear to see how such benefits would be welcomed in a manufacturing environment, one in which every minute of uptime carries a significant financial imperative. On the design side, digital twins could also improve product design and development without the need to produce physical prototypes. As well as allowing engineers to experiment with more diverse solutions to problems, and more inventive designs.