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What is a Digital Twin: Examples and Use Cases

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: August 20th, 2021·2.9 min read·

Science fiction has been promising us digital versions of ourselves for a long time. We’re still waiting for Ready Player One-style virtual avatars, but digital simulations of real-world objects, devices and even cities are already here. In our latest Tech Edge video, we’re answering the question, what is a Digital Twin, and what they’re used for. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

How Are Digital Twins Used?

First, the basics: A Digital Twin is a virtual version of a physical object, process or location that serves as a real-time digital counterpart. Digital twins are built by gathering all of the information and data about really anything of which you want to make a copy – and then recreating it in a digital space.

Digital Twins help make complex, costly or even dangerous processes safer, more affordable and more achievable. They’re one of the key enabling technologies that’s making digital transformation possible. Building digital twins is far from simple, but once created they offer nearly limitless potential.

Every individual component, the ways those components interact and even the environment they exist in, are digitally replicated. The digital twin then uses artificial intelligence to simulate the effects that changes in design, process, time or conditions would have, all without ever having to subject the real-world object to those same changes.

What are Digital Twins Used For?

Would you like to see what impact a hundred and twenty degree weather might have on the performance of your jet engine, but don’t want to risk flying one through the desert? Just increase the temperature on the digital twin. You can observe the result virtually and modify its performance to increase your success rate in the real world.

Interested to learn if changing the maintenance schedule for your factory full of laser cutting machines will have a positive or negative impact on production? If you’ve built a digital twin of your facility, simply change the schedule there and find out.

Let’s say you’re trying to optimize the traffic pattern around a new stadium being built downtown. Adjust traffic light timing, one way street direction or intersection design on the digital twin of your city and analyze the results.

In a digital twin, sensor information from the real world is continuously gathered throughout development, production and operation, and fed to the digital twin model. With that constant flow of data, changes made in the real world are reflected in the digital twin, allowing it to evolve as the project does.

Simulating the Entire Product Lifecycle

Digital prototypes can be created, tested and refined during development, well before creating a physical product. When a product does move to production, digital twins can be used to refine the process based on real-time feedback from equipment and operators. Once a product is in the field, its operation can be optimized by using the digital twin to help inform everything from the best possible operating conditions and maintenance schedules – to proposed design changes or alternate configurations.

So that’s your super high level overview of digital twins. If you’d like to dive deeper into the subject, we had a chance to discuss Digital Twins with our partners at Intel and Inductive Automation during our OnLogic LIVE series.

Have a question about Digital Twins? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author: Darek Fanton

Darek is the Communications Manager at OnLogic. His passion for both journalism and technology has led him from the newsrooms of local papers to the manufacturing floor of IBM. His background in news gathering has him always on the lookout for the latest in emerging tech and the best ways to share that information with readers. In addition to his affinity for words, Darek is a music lover, juggler and huge fan of terrible jokes.
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