Digital twins: why is everyone talking about them and does everyone need them?

Digital twins: why is everyone talking about them and does everyone need them?

Many people now use the word combination “digital doppelganger”, sometimes without knowing what it is. Today we will tell you what a digital doppelganger really means and why it is not always needed.

What’s a digital double?

A digital twin is a virtual prototype of a real physical product, product group or process, the essence of which is to collect and reuse digital information. In this case, the digital twin is not limited to the collection of data obtained at the stage of product development and manufacture. It continues to aggregate data throughout the life cycle of the object. It can be data on product status, sensor indicators, history of operations, factory (as-build) and service (as- maintained) configuration, software version and much more. The digital twin stores the entire history of the operating data. This provides additional maintenance capabilities and allows the entire picture to be viewed.

It reflects all processes occurring with the physical object in real time. The error between the virtual model and what is happening in real time should not exceed 5%.

The digital double combines in itself the big file of the information from different sources. Therefore the most detailed variant of a double contains data on an object appearance, its functions, a condition, external interventions and many other things.

For example, the company Tecnomatix created a digital doppelganger production for PROLIM, which wanted to improve the process of completing the product. To start with, a visual double of production was created. Further, data on the speed of objects, the number of workers and their performance and many others were removed from the sensors. All this information made it possible to create a digital twin, which repeats all the processes of a real object.

The video shows how you can change different production parameters and test other conditions. For example, the number of workers in the assembly shop.

Thus, the more different data there is about a physical object, the easier it is to create a digital copy and the more detailed it will be.

What’s he like?
It is a program based on 3D technology, VR or AR, as well as AI and IoT simultaneously. The result of synergy between several complex technologies and the basic sciences. Most often it reflects the visual representation of a physical object and ideally repeats the process of working in the most precise details. All physical, technological and business processes are described using mathematics. And to make it dynamic, the Internet of Things (IoT) comes to the aid: sensors built into the object transmit information about the current state of the object in real time. And this is reflected in the digital twin.

How to use a digital twin?
The digital twin provides service units with a wide range of capabilities to analyze the current state of the product, plan maintenance activities, find potential problems and their solutions. Combined with a maintenance management system, the Digital Doppelganger can be used to manage the spare parts and parts that will be required to complete repair or maintenance work at a specific time and location. With enough examples in the database, an engineer will be able to evaluate the performance of a particular range of equipment and its parts for further product improvement studies.

The idea of a digital double is not as new as it seems. Ever since CAD/CAM started to create digital models with physical product characteristics, it was already assumed that this data could be useful for future use. Performance and service information can be combined with project baseline data to improve technical support and prepare future design solutions. In some markets, such as the aerospace industry, the collection and storage of data on configuration history and maintenance is a priority. Specific benefits can be derived from the fact that data collected throughout the life cycle are combined in a single centre, the digital twin. For a long time, inadequate technology has hindered this goal – it has not been easy to transfer information between systems and use it with different software and on different platforms.

Recently, such technological barriers have been disappearing. In addition, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) provides an “ocean” of data from installed sensors that monitor usage, performance and product quality. All these data can be added to the digital twin, improving accuracy.

NASA has played a role in proving the necessity and usefulness of digital twins. If we are talking about spacecraft, typically collecting information from sensors using telemetry is the only way to monitor performance, make adjustments and make adjustments. When manned missions face problems, simulators and digital twin databases can help identify problems with high accuracy, offer possible solutions and test options on the ground before instructing astronauts to perform risky repairs in open space.

What advantages can a digital doppelganger have?
Digital twins have undoubtedly become a very useful tool. They allow you to improve maintenance operations and simplify product support, saving money by reducing the number of failures and extending the life of equipment. It can be assumed that with the development of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twins will become more detailed, and will work to maximize the return on investment in equipment and its maintenance, at the same time stimulating the improvement of product design.

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