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Redefining Businesses Through Digital Twin Technology

DZone's Guide to

Redefining Businesses Through Digital Twin Technology

Want to learn more about a technology that can benefit smart cities and businesses? Look no further than digital twin technology.

· IoT Zone ·
Free Resource

Digital twin technology is a concept that originated from Dr. Michael Grieves in 2002, due to the massive interest generated in the Internet of Things (IoT). Although not truly a digital twin, it was first implemented in NASA's Apollo mission. With the IoT forming the backbone of Industry 4.0 transformation, digital twin technology has never been more relevant than it is now.

Simply put, digital twin is the concept of maintaining a dynamic digital equivalent of physical assets, processes, and systems, utilizing data from various sources like sensors. The stream of data that connects the digital twin and its physical counterpart is called the digital thread.

With the integration of data and artificial intelligence, the digital replica created could change and update on a continuous basis, giving real-time simulation. Pairing up physical systems with their virtual counterparts holds immense significance. Indeed, digital twin technology was featured among the top ten strategic technology trends for 2018 by Gartner.

As per Dr. Grieves, digital twins can be classified into the following forms:

Digital Twin Prototype (DTP) – As the name suggests, DTP describes information that is necessary to produce a physical prototype of an asset. It consists of a 3D model and material and process specifications required for manufacturing an asset. The DTP also includes the digital twin dashboards that will represent the physical product’s production behavior.

Digital Twin Instance (DTI) – DTI describes the asset that the digital twin is linked to. In other words, it describes the physical instance of an asset. It contains information, such as the processes that an asset has undergone in its production, exact configuration, current state gathered from sensor data, etc.

Digital Twin Aggregate (DTA) – DTA is the aggregation of several DTIs. It can be used for querying multiple assets and it allows for their continuous condition monitoring.

While it may seem that CAD modeling is very similar to digital twin, they both differ in their scope. CAD, whether 2D or 3D, is a virtual model that captures design details of an object, such as its shape and dimensions. It is mainly used in the development phase of any product. On the other hand, digital twin captures the complete detail of a physical system, its environment, and its real-time behavior. The data generated by the physical system is conveyed digitally to monitor and even modify the state of the digital twin. One point of similarity between CAD and the digital twin is that the CAD model, created in the early design phase of product development. The CAD model is later saved for integration with real-time data to make a digital twin.

How Is Digital Twin Technology Relevant to the Manufacturing Sector?










IoT is the key driver of digital twin technology. With the explosive amount of data coming in from sensors and other devices, IoT provides an unprecedented visibility into systems and processes.

For heavy industries, connecting this data to a virtual model can significantly improve manufacturing processes in several ways; such as reduction in unanticipated downtimes of machines, maintenance costs, improving productivity, etc. For instance, with the availability of certain data that otherwise cannot be easily obtained, such as internal wear or temperature, maintaining a digital twin of heavy machinery used in manufacturing, say CNC machines, will help overseers in critical decision making.

Software companies have already started to offer digital twin solutions. For instance, Seebo offers an end-to-end digital twin solution for manufacturers, from quickly developing a digital model and carrying out simulations to verify functionality to providing a marketplace and behavior analytics of the product’s actual usage and behavior. Seebo delivers its digital twin technology to machine manufacturers (OEMs) and to factory shop floors in the form of software as a service (SaaS). Using solutions such as Seebo’s, companies can deploy a digital twin of their products in a matter of 2-3 months.

According to a report by the Aberdeen group, as highlighted in the graph below, digital twin is increasingly being adopted in the manufacturing and production sector.


Benefits of Implementing Digital Twin Across Industries

With the growing adoption of industrial IoT, companies are looking to streamline their processes and cut down the inefficiencies in the system. In addition, going "smart" allows companies to increase their productivity, which, in turn, increases their revenue. With the convergence of IoT in industry, digital twin technology can be incorporated easily and allow companies to have a true digital representation of systems and facilities. Essentially, digital twin technology benefits the industries in numerous ways, some of them are as follows:

Visibility – One of the prime benefits provided by digital twin is the visibility of systems and processes. Having complete insight into every aspect of the assets and operations allows companies to design products or maintain their production process efficiently.

Real-time virtual monitoring and work safety – Monitoring the state of the system is critical while operating heavy machinery or managing complex processes. Regardless of the risks posed, workers would have to physically monitor the critical operational parameters to analyze a system's state. Therefore, adopting digital twin ensures that the highest level of worker safety and monitoring can be completely shifted to the virtual domain without requiring physical proximity to any system.

Predictive diagnostics – The facility to conduct early diagnosis of any developing faults in the equipment is highly significant to the manufacturing sector. Digital twin provides the ability to monitor the operational conditions of systems or processes, thereby enabling the enterprises to predict the possible failures, downtimes, etc.

Improved product quality and reduced cost – With streams of data from sensors, the quality of products can be improved continually. This is consistent with the improvement in quality. In turn, this will optimize performance that will ultimately drive product innovation. Because of this, digital twin allows for collaboration among the key players, which not only removes silos but also reduces costs by significantly lowering the chances of late-stage design changes.

Applications of Digital Twin Technology

With Industry 4.0 gaining momentum, the significance of connecting things is well recognized across every industry and business. With the tech spotlight on IoT, the digital representation of physical objects is now garnering interest from major players in the industry. The following includes some of the verticals across which digital twin technology could be implemented:

Manufacturing – The manufacturing sector is one of the biggest beneficiaries of digital twins. It allows companies to optimize their products throughout their lifecycle, which ultimately helps them in furthering business goals. Besides, digital twin can also make a significant impact on the manufacturing process itself.

Healthcare – From data gathered through IoT, the bio-physical information of a person can be used to create a digital twin. Therefore, the digital model allows medical practitioners to accurately diagnose conditions and give treatment promptly.

Retail – As gaining a large customer base is crucial to successful retail, digital twin can provide a unique customer experience that ultimately helps to retain customers. For instance, companies can offer tailored fashion recommendations to customers based on their virtual twin.

Smart cities – At a time when environmental concerns are running high due to rapid urbanization, incorporating digital twin into city planning or urban management can tremendously reduce detrimental damage caused as a result. Efficient resource management, improved quality of life, and sustainable development are some of the many benefits that digital twin can provide.

Conclusion

As humans and physical objects are becoming increasingly connected, gaining useful insights from the massive amount of data involved becomes extremely important. Digital twin provides useful insights by creating a virtual space where data can be visualized. As industries and businesses look at gaining a competitive edge, adopting smart solutions such as digital twin becomes imperative to stay ahead in the market.

Topics:
digital twin ,industrial iot

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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