Summary: The digital twin as a concept is not new. This is accomplished by fusing virtual engineering models with the physical product or equipment to modify and optimize the product as-designed and as-built.
FREMONT, CA: In manufacturing, a digital twin is a virtual representation of the physical product as designed, built, and maintained, augmented by real-time process data and analytics based on accurate configurations of the physical product, production systems, or equipment. This is essentially the operational context for the digital twin that is required to enable performance optimization. While virtual models are conceptual, real-time and operational data is a digital representation of physical events in the real world. CAD models represent the digital twin’s physical counterpart’s virtual fit, form, and function. Real-time operational and asset data, on the other hand, are required to run analytics applications that define the state and behavior of the performance-based digital twin and enable optimization and process improvement.
Manufacturers are considering new business models based on real-world implementations. They provide services in place of the product and then monitor and optimize the product’s availability and performance using the digital twin. Customers receive access to the product/equipment and extensive maintenance and operational optimization based on the predictive/prescriptive capabilities of the digital twin. The manufacturer retains ownership of the equipment while offering maintenance services based on a digital twin. This is a more controllable and successful business model.
Asset lifecycle management (ALM) has been one of the initial areas targeted to implement digital twins. Historically, field asset maintenance has been a time-consuming and expensive task, but it is critical for uptime equipment and smart manufacturing system. Today, maintenance technicians can leverage augmented reality technologies, enabling them to access virtual engineering models and overlay them on the physical equipment they are performing maintenance via specialized augmented reality goggles or glasses. This enables them to utilize the most accurate and current engineering, efficiently executing the correct maintenance and performance specifications. These same maintenance techniques, based on the fusion of virtual and physical environments, can maintain factory production systems, machines, and work cells.
The advanced virtual simulation technology available today is a critical component of the digital twin. Concurrent simulation and validation of product functionality are possible with comprehensive simulation platforms, allowing designers to validate their designs as they go. Real-time sensor data can populate digital twin simulation applications, then emulate the physical product and enable design improvements.