Digital twins can be used in a variety of different applications including simulations of real-world objects, devices, and even cities. So what is a digital twin, exactly? In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about digital twin technology, how it’s used, and present some examples. You can also watch a summary in our Tech Edge video below.
What is a digital twin?
A Digital Twin is a virtual version of a physical object, process, or location that serves as a real-time digital counterpart. These virtual models are built by gathering all of the information and data about anything of which you want to make a copy then creating it in a digital space.
Digital twins help make complex, costly, or even dangerous processes safer, more affordable, and more achievable. Building a digital copy is far from simple, but once created, it can offer nearly limitless potential and help to make digital transformation possible.
How are digital twins used?
First, every individual component, the ways those components interact, and the environment they exist in are digitally replicated. The digital twin then uses artificial intelligence to simulate what would happen if changes in design, process, time, or conditions were made, all without ever having to subject the real-world object to those same changes. This is called predictive analytics.
In a digital twin, sensor information from the real world is continuously gathered throughout development, production, and operation and then fed to the digital twin model. With that constant flow of data, changes made in the real world are reflected in the digital model, allowing it to evolve as the project does.
What are digital twins used for?
Digital twins are used in a variety of applications. Take aviation, for example. If you want to see what impact a hundred and twenty degree weather might have on the performance of your jet engine without risking flying one through the desert, all you would need to do is to increase the temperature on the digital twin. You could then observe a digital representation of the result and modify its performance to increase your success rate in the real world.
Smart manufacturing example
Digital representations of a physical factory can be used to improve manufacturing processes. For example, let’s say you want to understand the impact of changing your maintenance schedule on your laser cutting factory. You could adjust the schedule digitally and then determine if it has a positive or negative impact on production.
Smart city example
A digital replica of a city could be created and used to optimize traffic. For example, let’s say you’re trying to improve the traffic pattern around a new stadium being built downtown. Adjust traffic light timing, one way street direction or intersection design on your virtual model of your city and analyze the results.
Simulating the entire product lifecycle
Digital prototypes can be created, tested, and refined during development long before creating a physical product. When a product does eventually move to production, digital twins enable the ability to refine the process based on real-time data from equipment and operators. Once a product is in the field, its operation can be optimized by using the twin to help inform everything from the best possible operating conditions and maintenance schedules to proposed design changes or alternate configurations.
If you’d like to dive deeper into this subject, check out the recap of OnLogic Live – Edge of tomorrow where we had a chance to discuss the digital twin concept and edge computing with our partners at Intel and Inductive Automation. Have a question about digital twins? Contact the knowledgeable team at OnLogic today.
We originally posted this blog on August 20th, 2021. We updated this blog on July 21st, 2022.