What is a Digital Twin?
Digital twin technology is one of the fastest-growing aspects of Industry 4.0. A digital twin (sometimes called a digital replica) is a virtual representation – essentially a computer model – of a real-world component in the manufacturing process. On a practical level, a digital version of a physical manufacturing production line can be created and fed with data (via sensors) from its real-life counterpart. In doing so, manufacturers can improve system designs, test new products, carry out preventive maintenance, and predict issues and problems – all in the virtual space.
How Digital Twins are Developed
There are a variety of tools available for developing digital twins in a manufacturing setting. Depending on the purpose of your digital twin project, some of the following technologies may be needed:
CAD or 3D modeling tools – CAD (computer-aided design) describes a method by which 2D drawings and 3D models of real-world products are digitally created before they are manufactured. CAD or other 3D design programs are a common part of many manufacturing processes. Companies building digital twins will often need to export CAD designs into other tools in the pipeline. If changes then need to be made to the original CAD design, the digital twin can be updated seamlessly, making the process highly efficient.
IoT/connected devices – IoT and connected devices can supply continuous, real-time data to the digital twin which can be used in many ways, e.g. to predict outcomes, or model different scenarios.
Game engines – The superior rendering capabilities of game engines can often be used to bring digital twins to life. In certain cases, game engines such as “Unreal” are used to enhance the visualization of the digital twin and make it more believable and relatable.
Version control – The digital twin process involves the collection of a large amount of data and the management of several versions of the item as the project unfolds. A version control system is often deployed to manage changes to files over time and store any modifications in a database.
Pros and Cons of Digital Twins
Accelerated risk assessment and production time – Companies can use the digital twin to test and validate different products before they are manufactured. Engineers can synthesize unexpected scenarios and examine the system’s predicted reaction. Such capability can improve risk assessment, accelerate new product development, and enhance production-line reliability.
Predictive maintenance – The IoT sensors used to inform the digital twin generate data in real-time. This data can be proactively analyzed by businesses to reveal any problems within a system. By doing so, businesses can schedule predictive maintenance more accurately thus reducing maintenance costs.
Real-time remote monitoring – Many businesses struggle to get a real-time, in-depth snapshot of a large physical system. As digital twins can be accessed anywhere, they can be used to monitor and control system performance remotely.
Financial decision-making – Financial data, such as the cost of materials and labor, can be integrated into digital twins to enable businesses to make more informed decisions about whether a certain change or adjustment to a manufacturing value chain is financially sound.
Data security and quality – Digital twin models collect data from a series (sometimes thousands) of remote sensors that are attached to networks. Aside from the vulnerabilities introduced by network connections, businesses must also ensure that their data is usable and implement strategies to deal with bad data and manage any gaps in data streams.
Training – Using digital twin technology requires training and support to get the staff in the best position to maximize these capabilities.
Matics & Digital Twins
Digital twin technology is another avenue through which you can enhance your manufacturing operation and achieve greater levels of efficiency and economy. The Matics RtO solution enables you to instantly set up a digital twin for your shop-floor, ensuring that all your bases are covered no business process is left unscrutinized, no matter where you are.