The Rise of the Digital TwinFollow article
In December of 2020, the Digital Twin Consortium released its definition of the digital twin:
- A digital twin is a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes, synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity.
- Digital twin systems transform business by accelerating holistic understanding, optimal decision-making, and effective action.
- Digital twins use real-time and historical data to represent the past and present and simulate predicted futures.
- Digital twins are motivated by outcomes, tailored to use cases, powered by integration, built on data, guided by domain knowledge, and implemented in IT/OT systems.
At first glance, this definition includes a lot of jargon, tech-speak and the occasional acronym. However, it represents the output of months of work by many people. In the blog post that announced the new definition, the DTC explained the reasoning behind the decisions that they made. It's a really interesting reading. But why is it necessary?
Why the Digital Twin?
The digital twin is a relatively new concept that has come into its own with the growing power of the internet. Over the last decade, there has been a revolution in how devices use the internet to communicate with each other. This machine-to-machine communication is so common that it has a new name: the Internet of Things (IoT).
Here at DesignSpark, we have written about the IoT quite a lot. For most of us, the IoT is something we encounter in our homes. With the growth of internet-based technology from security and smart metering to entertainment and online shopping, many of us are now using the IoT daily. However, it is in the industrial world that the IoT is placed to make the biggest impact of all, generating another new name: Industry 4.0.
In turn, Industry 4.0 has given rise to the smart factory. The modern factory is filled with machines that share data with each other, allowing it to optimize everything from power consumption to maintenance schedules. The true power of Industry 4.0 lies in the ability to integrate an entire production process and control it centrally.
Not Just in the Factory
This is not limited to the traditional manufacturing environment. The smart factory concept extends to any system, and importantly they are no longer confined to single, large locations. The machines or components that constitute such a system do not need to be in the same place. An excellent example of this can be found in the renewable energy sector. The smart grid combines sources of power from diverse technologies, along with consumers. Consumption data is shared with producers to optimize the supply of energy at peak times.
Industry 4.0 changes the methods that operators use to ensure the safe running of their facility. By installing a range of sensors on every wind turbine, and connecting them together, operators can collect a huge amount of data in real-time. This is then collected, but the key task is to analyse this data in a useful way.
This is the task of the digital twin. A digital twin is a replica of a real device that exists electronically in a virtual space. It is a model of the original machine that shows how the real-world example should operate.
However, if the digital twin existed only as a model it would be of limited use. While it can be used to show how a machine should operate, it cannot provide any real-world help. However, by taking all the data collected from sensors within the original and feeding it into the digital twin, it is possible to create a real-time simulation of the machine in use.
The Power of the Digital Twin
This is the power of the digital twin. Combining the model of the original and comparing it with real-time data from sensors makes it possible to identify and even predict potential problems. An unexpected vibration could indicate damage that will require attention. An increase in power consumption might suggest that parts are nearing the end of their life and need replacing.
In addition, comparing historic data with predicted performance will allow the operator to refine the accuracy of the digital twin. This will allow the digital twin to be even more useful in predicting maintenance or failures in the future. When combined with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) techniques, operators can use this accuracy to ensure replacement parts are available at the times and places they are most needed, even for facilities that are located in remote regions.
The internet has changed how we share data forever. It is now changing how machines share data, allowing operators to create complex facilities around the world. It is the power of the digital twin that links the real world with the virtual environment and allows engineers to make total use of this data.
To learn more about the work of the DTC, their website is packed with information. More importantly, there are plenty of examples of the digital twin in action in a diverse array of industries. And stay tuned to DesignSpark - the digital twin will be back!