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09/23/2020
By
MJV Team

Digital Twins: what it is, how it works, and the advantages of this technology

A new technology called Digital Twins (Digital Gemini) has arrived to further enrich the game, especially for those who are at the beginning of their digital transformation.

Have you heard of Digital Twins? Do you know how the tools and methods under this concept work?

It is capable of creating virtual models of objects, processes, and large systems.

That is exactly what we will show you throughout this article. 

What Digital Twins Technology is and How It Works

Originally, this term was coined by Dr. Michael Grieves in 2002. However, at that time, it was difficult and expensive to implement the concept and make it available for general use. The situation changed in the 2010s, with the development of IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Cloud Computing.

So, what is this technology? 

Think of a digital twin as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds.

First, smart components that use sensors to collect real-time data on status, working conditions, and position are integrated into a physical item. 

These components are connected to a cloud-based system that receives and processes all the data that the sensors monitor. This entry is analyzed against business and other contextual data.

Lessons are learned and opportunities are discovered within the virtual environment that can be applied to the physical world – ultimately, to transform your business.

A Digital Twin can also be described as a virtual model of a real product, process, or service that can be monitored, analyzed, and improved.

The model is created using computer-aided engineering and is integrated with the Internet of Things, machine learning, and Big Data analysis. 

It is a virtual prototype of a “living” and dynamic object, which means that it is updated whenever its physical twin undergoes changes. It is also capable of learning, absorbing the knowledge of people, machines, and the environment in which it exists.

Digital twins must meet three requirements:

  • Has the identical appearance of the original object, including all minor details.
  • Behaves in the same way as the original object during the test.
  • Analyzes information about the pros and cons of the original object, predict possible problems, and suggest solutions.

Experts assume that in the near future, millions of digital twins will replace processes involved in diagnosing equipment malfunctions. This is already happening in some companies. 

Types of digital twins

Virtual models are widely used in the manufacturing of various products. Several types of simulators exist today.

Product twins

These are separate product models. Manufacturers use a virtual prototype of a certain product well before setting up a production line to analyze how it will perform under different conditions and what problems can occur. 

This allows you to make the necessary adjustments and create a more efficient design. As a result, the product’s digital twin help to reduce production costs and time-to-market, all while improving quality.

Product twins can also be used to control product performance in the physical world.

Process twins

These models simulate manufacturing processes. A virtual production process can create different scenarios and show what will happen in different situations. This allows a company to develop the most efficient production methodology.

The process can be optimized with the help of product twins for each piece of equipment involved. Thus, a company will be able to carry out preventive maintenance, avoiding costly downtime. Manufacturing operations will be safer, faster, and more efficient.    

System twins

These are virtual models of all systems. They collect huge amounts of operational data produced by devices and products in the system, gain insight, and create new opportunities to optimize processes.

What Digital Twins Are Used For

In general, digital twins are used to monitor, analyze, and improve physical prototypes. 

Their functions can be divided into three stages:

  1. See: in this stage, sensors, and devices collect data to visualize the situation.
  2. Think: at this stage, the intelligent software analyzes the collected data and, if there is a problem, seeks several possible solutions for each one.  
  3. Do: in this step, the smart algorithms choose the most appropriate solution and implement them automatically

Digital Twins are powerful mentors to drive innovation and performance. Imagine having the most talented product technicians with the most advanced monitoring, analysis, and forecasting capabilities at the touch of a button.

Digital Twin technology also helps companies improve their customer experience, understand customer needs, develop improvements in existing products, operations, and services, and can even help drive new business innovation.

Benefits that Digital Twins can offer to businesses

Digital Twin technology is already widely used in manufacturing, but the situation is changing rapidly. With more companies implementing the Internet of Things in their operational processes, we will see more digital twins employed in various sectors very soon. 

Check out what impacts the use of digital twins can have on business:

Cutting Costs

As a rule, a product goes through several iterations before a functional prototype is displayed. This process is very expensive because it requires a significant contribution of time and work.

Digital twins help reduce defects during actual production, allowing engineers to perform tests and simulations in a virtual environment. It is much easier, cheaper, and faster to correct defects in the digital world than in the real world. Manufacturers can eliminate almost all risks of future output and make sure that the physical object will work exactly as planned.

Only when the prototype of the digital product appears, can it be put into production with the certainty that there will be no bugs and that no additional expenses will be necessary. The technology then provides additional maintenance that is also economical for business, as fewer employees are involved.

Thus, the main benefit of digital twins is cost savings during production and maintenance.

Reduced time to market for new products

Half the battle for companies is getting to market faster than their competitors. This is often a problem due to long steps and constant changes in production.

When a company uses a digital twin to create a product or service, it greatly reduces their time to market. 

The product life cycle is carried out in the digital environment, where all improvements can be made much faster and easier. 

A virtual prototype validates how your physical copy will behave in reality, thus optimizing efficiency and development time.  

Predictive Maintenance

An important advantage of digital twin technology is that it can solve problems well in advance. This feature is called predictive maintenance.  

Virtual copies perform constant remote control of their physical prototypes, gathering various sources of information through sensors. The analysis of the collected data allows us to predict possible problems, for example, if a spare part is almost worn out and needs to be replaced. 

Human operators will receive reports on possible problems and be able to address them in a timely manner. If a part is replaced before it is broken, the manufacturer will avoid more serious damage and unnecessary downtime, saving time and money.

How about it, did you enjoy reading the benefits of Digital Twin technology? Continue to braoden your knowledge; download our e-book: “Digital Disruption – your company leading the market”!

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