December 21, 2019

The Mind of a Machine – Digital Twin | What is a Digital Twin (2021)

Digital Twin is the concept which will prove the validity and relevance of our physical assets.

If you are someone who is looking for a way to explore your business model in a more comprehensible way which accentuates growth using data analytics and artificial technology, then digital twin technology is for you.


Introduction to Digital Twin

With every generation comes a better and more efficient technological advancement. Such development affects the way business is conducted. It affects everything from the variety of products they produce to the methods  they employ to  produce goods to the changes that occur in their office environment. 

Since the 1st Industrial revolution in the 18th century to the present ongoing fourth wave of Industrial revolution, there has been a significant transformation in the way products are created.

The reason such a change is occurring is due to digitalisation of manufacturing. This concept of digitalisation of manufacturing affirms that digitalisation has changed the way goods are manufactured, used and how service is offered for it. The processes, objectives, supply chains and operation methods are all changing. 

In such a world, where systems are adapting to a digitalised world, one imperative innovation for businesses is Digital-Twin.

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Digital Twin

What is Digital Twin?

The idea of data twins has been floundering around for over a decade now, but it wasn’t used for accelerating business growth until now.

The concept of digital twin refers to the construction of a virtual representation of a system or object which uses real time data, simulation and machine learning to determine future outcomes.

In simple words, we are creating a virtual model that is the duplicate of the physical object or system. The virtual system will now map the same sensory changes which the physical object is exposed to.

This will allow the virtual model to predict the consequence of the stimuli on the physical asset in the real world.

This way digital twin technology can run simulations and can predict an outcome which is likely to be a success after eliminating all chances of failure in a project. One can also recognise potential problems so that they can be prevented or marginally reduced before they occur.

This makes digital twins an essential aspect of the Internet of things. 

Digital twin
Physical object meets its virtual replica

Digital Thread

A digital thread is a process that loops the physical reality and digital world to integrate and extract information. This data is analysed to simulate future outcomes. There are four major steps involved in the process of data thread. 

Step 1: CAD models and PLM configurations help to transmit a physical object into a digital or virtual object. These virtual objects will be deemed as physical objects once they are manufactured and they are tangible. Until then, it is a virtual representation. 

Step 2: The product interacts with different processes, people, changes in socio-economic variables etc and other real time occurrences. This input which is collected from the real world is infused in the virtual representation.

Step 3: As the product interacts it uses augmented reality and other software systems and sensors to detect and translate the physical data onto the virtual model. 

Step 4: Changes and influences from interaction bring about changes in the virtual model. This helps to understand the reason why it is successful or why it is failing. Analysis and comprehensive understanding of the data helps different organisations to come up with viable solutions for business problems.


Types of Digital Twin

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Following are three types –

  • (“DTP”) Digital Twin Prototype – Consists of designs, analyses, and processes to realize a physical product.
  • (“DTI”) Digital Twin Instance – It is the Digital Twin of each individual part of the product after manufacturing.
  • (“DTA”) Digital Twin Aggregate – It is the aggregation of DTIs whose data is used for interrogation about the physical product, prognostics, and learning.

Characteristics of Digital Twin

Connectivity

This technology enables connectivity between the physical component and its digital version. It’s created with the help of IoT sensors placed on physical devices.

Homogenization

It is homogeneous in nature. Any type of information can be stored and transmitted to its digital version. This , have allowed digital twins to come into existence.

Modular

This technology works in modules. It helps to identify problems or errors in different parts of the machine individually.

Manufacturers can see which components make the machine perform poorly and replace these with better fitting components to improve its efficiency.


How can Digital Twin technology enhance different business models? 

Three basic ways in which this technology can enhance different business models are:

1. Product:

A product digital twin optimises and identifies the relevance and success rate of your product and how it interacts with the world. The digital twin of your product will respond to the changes made in its virtual world which is the same as the sensory input collected from the real world.

This will help to rectify fallacies as a product’s failure or shortcomings become prominent. This adjustment will ensure the survival of the product in the real world. 

2. Production:

A production digital twin will help to improve the viability of a manufacturing process. Through using various simulations of different manufacturing processes a curated solution will develop.

This solution is a product of analysis of the digital thread and after testing the success of the process under different conditions.

Better more, such a digital twin can also suggest damage preventive measures and ways to maintain the efficiency of the process.

3. Performance: 

A digital twin has the ability to utilise the input data from the external world, analyse it and take action on it and show the possible virtual outcomes. As far as performance is concerned, a digital twin offers insight on how the product and the process of manufacturing will improve the performance of the product in real time.

This will enable businesses to optimise the use of opportunities or even create them if the need be. They will try to improve the existing digital twins performance to ensure that the product is ready for the world when its physical form is created.

Furthermore, system efficiency and analysis of operation data also assists for superior performance of a product. 

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A digital twin learns continuously from itself and updates itself from different sources to represent its near real-time status and working condition.

This self-learning system conveys various aspects of its operating condition, from human experts, such as IT pros with deep and relevant industry domain knowledge, from other similar machines and from the larger systems of which it may be a part.

It integrates historical data from past learning to its digital model.


Benefits of Digital-Twin

  • Helps companies improve the customer experience by better understanding customer needs.
  • Enhance existing products, operations, and services.
  • Can contribute to driving the innovation of new business.
  • Digital twins offer a real-time look at what’s happening with physical assets, which can radically alleviate maintenance burdens.
  • A digital twin can reduce the operating cost and extend the life of equipment and assets.
  • Can develop the most intelligent and complex machine with ease.

Drawbacks of Digital Twin

  • Can unnecessarily increase complexity.
  • There are also concerns about privacy, security, cost, and integration.
  • Because digital twins are based in the cloud and don’t require physical infrastructure, the associated security risks are somewhat lower than with other types of systems.
  • Every time a new connection is made and more data flows between devices and the cloud, the potential risk for compromise increases. Therefore, industries using digital twin technology must be careful not to rush into adoption without assessing and updating current security protocols.

Application of Digital Twin

Some sectors where this technology is employed and is being used for are:

1. Asset performance Management:

The digital twin monitors the plant performance, asset health and equipment reliability. It uses the virtual diagnoses to predict asset failures so that preventive measures can be taken for the same.

2. Engineering:

A virtual representation of the physical object can be tested and improved using the virtual replica. It helps to identify problems in the products and simulates possibilities of failures before the production of the physical object. Operational processes can be enhanced and developed using this technology.

3. Retail businesses:

A digital twin can be created for the customer. The digital twin will help customers make choices for their purchases by modelling the clothes for them. Such a digital twin will help to save energy and improve the customer experience. 

4. Healthcare:

In the healthcare sector, this technology will enable personal treatment and curated treatment of a patient. After considering the implications such as psychological, physiological and lifestyle factors, curated medical services can be delivered with a high success rate.

5. Automobile:

A virtual model of the automobile will help to analyse the performance of the vehicle and its other features. Operational and behaviour data will determine the vehicle performance and the viability of its added features.

6. Space Customisation:

The space capacity of a design can be accurately determined using a virtual model . The functional and customer optimised model can be easily simulated.

For designing an office, the optimal number of office stations that can be created will be determined by the digital twin of the building. Emergency exits can be better placed using a digital twin.

These are a handful of uses of digital twin technology in different sectors. However, newer additions and creativity will help digital twin technology to pervade all aspects of life.


Digital Twin Providers

1.GE Digital:

It offers digital twin technology services which understand past data, interprets present conditions and determines future predictions. It uses the digital twin for providing maintenance of health equipment and operation optimisation.

2. Akselos:

This platform offers any where to use digital twin technology which uses real time monitoring to create simulations of asset integrity. It uses asset based licenses which help to ascertain many designs and asset conditions which help to predict a solution.

3. Ansys Twin Builder:

This platform helps in the development of vehicle models, battery management systems, model workflow enhancements and many more.

These are three out of many other firms which provide such a technology. 


Digital Twin Market

Analysts expect this technology will expand at an exponential rate which will go from USD 469.8 billion investment in 2020 to a USD 1009.8 billion investment by 2025.

The emergence of technology has made curation of services important in the modern world. Such curation can be done with a higher success rate by using the digital twin technology. The need for personalised digital services can be catered by using the enterprise data to simulate the best service for the customer.  

There are many challenges in this market which mainly concern the privacy and security of confidential data. Since all data is mainly stored on devices these days, it is easy to lose physical control over information in case of security breaches. Even if remedies are taken to prevent such breeches, the information stolen will be lost. This makes using portable devices dangerous as they are vulnerable to cyber and security attacks.

However, overcoming such challenges will help to progress toward a future which is result oriented and offers the best solutions for the worst problems.

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Conclusion

Digital twin technology is beneficial in its own respect and comes with its drawbacks. If we are able to weigh the benefits over the fallacies of the technology , then much good can come from use of such technology.


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