2016 saw the rapid spread of already existing IoT, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. 2017 has something new on the horizon: digital twins, the latest tech trend.
IoT, virtual reality and augmented reality have long been making their mark in the tech world. With the turn of the year, there are some new trends about to storm the market. What has 2017 got in store for us? Digital twins.
Though digital twins have already been a topic of interest for the past few years, it is only thanks to IoT, Industry 4.0 and big data that they are now becoming a reality. According to a report by Gartner, billions of things will be represented by digital clones in just three to five years. So what exactly is a digital twin and how will they be implemented?
A digital twin is a virtual image of a physical product or building block. It emerges with the idea of a product. The physical product, equipped with sensors, is support by its digital twin throughout its entire shelf life.
The Advantages of a Digital Twin
First of all, a digital twin makes it possible to manufacture extremely high quality products. The construction of expensive prototypes is replaced by a manufacturing process guided by a virtual template. The virtual model and all potentially imaginable realities and extreme conditions can then be tested and optimized. This extensive process guarantees the production of a sophisticated, first-rate product before the actual physical manufacture.
Second, a digital twin accompanies the physical product during its entire lifecycle. Built-in sensors on the physical machine constantly transmit information to the clone. The digital twin analyzes all this information and uses it to continuously improve the quality of future products. On top of the improvements to the final product, these sensors allow for the implementation of predictive maintenance. The ongoing transmission of control values to the cloud makes it possible to detect any irregularities quickly and with ease. They can also determine when maintenance is necessary based on use and wear and tear. This helps avoid expensive and unexpected repairs.
Virtual clones have no concept of time and space. That is why they are revolutionizing predictive maintenance. With one click of the mouse they can clock hundreds of operating hours and simulate uncountable environmental conditions. The information provided to these digital twins by the physical product is providing manufacturers with more insight into their products and making it possible for them to predict more than they ever could before.
The Marrying of Sensors and Simulation is the Real Digital Twin
There’s nothing new about equipping machines with sensors. And CAD programs have long been able to create models that offer a tangible glimpse of the end product. Using logistics and process calculations, manufacturers are able to simulate production. The difference with the digital twin lies in its ability to fuse the sensor technology (IoT) with the simulation.
It is exactly this synthesis of technologies that is changing the way we use, develop and integrate existing tools to give rise to new innovations. It will be exciting to see how this technology might influence future generations of digital minds. But that is a question for 2018!
DNV GL, a leading global classification society and an esteemed consultancy service provider in the maritime industry, published a video demonstrating the implementation of digital twins and their advantage.