Digital TWIN: A NECESSITY IN FUTURE MANUFACTURING

In today’s world, the specifications for manufactured products are getting more and more complex with each passing day. To meet these specifications for the final product, the set of traditional tools the engineers are able to use is rather small. Needed is a set of construction and manufacturing tools to meet the demanded standard of a digital world with software driven products. To meet these standards traditionally, a high effort in the construction and manufacturing phase was needed with no guarantee that the final product fits the standards.

 

The technology of digital twin offers engineers a „look through the microscope” in the very hearts of their products. They can show what happens the very moment as well as what happens in the future lifetime of the product and its physical assets.

 

In existing literature definitions about what characterizes a digital twin are „Using a digital copy of the physical system to perform real-time optimization” as well as „The digital twin is the virtual representation of a physical object or system across its life-cycle. It uses real-time data and other sources to enable learning, reasoning and dynamically recalibrating for improved decision making.” In simple words these definitions access that the digital twin creates an extremely complex virtual model which is supposed to be the exact counterpart (twin) of a physical constructed product.

This product might be as well a car, a train, a jet engine or a bridge. With this technology no limitations are set as to which products is to be digitalized as long as you are able to collect data about it. The necessary data is collected by using connected sensors on the physical product which will be further mapped onto a virtual model. Everyone in the manufacturing process is now able to take a look at crucial information about the current status of the product and how it is doing out there in “the real world”.

Areas of use and specific tasks for digital twins

Having access to crucial information about how the physical thing is doing out there in the real world means, that a digital twin is a vital tool to aid engineers understand not only how their products are performing, but how they will perform in the (distant) future. Analysis of the data from the connected sensors, combined with other sources of information, will allow them to make precise predictions.

By using this information companies can learn more faster about their product and break down boundaries surrounding product innovation, life cycles and value creation. Different accomplishments are supplied by Digital twins to engineers, like:

  • Visualizing products in use, by real users, in real-time
  • Building a digital thread, connecting disparate systems and promoting traceability
  • Refining assumptions with predictive analytics
  • Troubleshooting far away equipment
  • Managing complexities and linkage within systems-of-systems

Relating to the field of application, digital twins can already be found in the manufacturing industry, the automotive sector, as well as in the healthcare industry.

It is predicted, that with rising processing capabilities of computers and the decrease of hardware prices per measurement of calculational power, digital twin technology can unfold more and more potential.

The higher the calculational power, the better and more accurate the digital twin can be created. This leads to a higher benefit for the company.

Digital Twin technology in the automotive and healthcare industry

The automotive sector uses digital twin technology mainly in the design and testing phase. The existing physical materiality is expanded by the incorporation of software, based digital abilities and reducing marginal costs. By using the collected data, process is facilitated. Combined with analytical tools, the data is able to show how a car is driven on the road. New features can be incorporated, which can reduce car accidents on the road. Up to this point, gaining this knowledge was not possible in a short amount of time.

The healthcare sector uses the capabilities in a similar way. Based on data collection, the processed information is used to improve lives in terms of medical health by implying healthcare in a more data driven way. Personalized models can be built, which can be adapted in lifetime. This helps diagnostics with existing models and changing lifestyle parameters. This enables doctors to tailor healthcare to specific patients. The responses of each patient can be anticipated with high accuracy.

Furthermore, the digital twin enables individual’s records to be compared to the population in order to easier find patterns with great detail. Not only sick patients are of use to this technology. By mapping healthy patients, their information can be compared to sick patients and similar body specifications. This comparison can show differences that are not obvious in the first look and indicate changes to the healthy body.

Ups and Downsides of this technology

In the manufacturing area, digital twin technology show few to none downside effects. The access to life data creates a much cheaper, faster and more effective production cycle. Models of the final product can be created with high accuracy and therefore enables the engineers to necessary changes in the product. Normal testing will not be outdated completely. Even though the simulation and predictions show a high accuracy, it cannot be 100% sure.

The healthcare sector also gains a lot of benefits by using this technology. Patients can be treated more individually with tailored healthcare to their specificfg body data. Tests can be done digitally without endangering the life of the patient itself and still gain valuable information. A downside might be, that this gain comes at a high price. The technology itself is expensive and not accessible to the whole population. This could lead to a two-class society in the healthcare sector.

Overall, digital twin enables its users to a big field of opportunities.

Sources:

IBM: What is digital twin?;
https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/iot-cheat-sheet-digital-twin/,
retrieved 01/14/2018

Millions of things will soon have digital twins;
https://www.economist.com/business/2017/07/13/millions-of-things-will-soon-have-digital-twins ,
retrieved 07/13/2017

How digital twins are revolutionizing industry;
http://www.hannovermesse.de/en/news/how-digital-twins-are-revolutionizing-industry.xhtml ,
retrieved 10/16/2016

The rise of the digital twin: how healthcare can benefit;
https://www.philips.com/a-w/research/blog/the-rise-of-the-digital-twin-how-healthcare-can-benefit.html ,
retrieved 08/15/2018

ANSYS: Digital TWIN;
https://www.ansys.com/products/systems/digital-twin ,
retrieved 02/03/2018

Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018;
http://brilliantdude.com/solves/content/GartnerTrends2018.pdf ,
retrieved 10/03/2017

Azure Digital Twins;
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/digital-twins/ ,
retrieved 09/24/2018