The digital twin – an introduction
Digital twins are one of the most important inventions of recent years – and yet many people still lack the knowledge about what a digital twin is, what it can do and what opportunities it opens up for a broad variety of industries. For today’s blog article, we have set ourselves the goal of changing exactly that problem.
What is a digital twin?
Let’s come to the first and probably most important question: What is a digital twin anyway? Well, the digital twin is a virtual model of a process, a product or a service. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to this illustrated object as an “original object” in the following text. The digital twin serves as a link between the real and the virtual world. Whereby this is not 100% correct, because a digital twin can also be an image of a digital product. Furthermore, for the creation of a digital twin, it does not matter whether the product depicted already exists now or will exist only in the future.
The digital twin can use real data from sensors to virtually simulate realistic working conditions or machine positions. In this way, work processes can be analyzed in advance and sources of error avoided or wear reduced. This results, for example, in less downtime and slower wear of the machines. Such digital twins, which can map the life cycle of products, processes or services, are becoming increasingly necessary in more complex industries.
An easy example:
Let’s say you have a battery pack that you can use to charge your smartphone and other devices via a USB cable. If this battery pack has a digital twin, you can simulate in advance how often you can charge your devices with one battery charge and how long your battery pack will work with current use. The digital twin may also be able to detect errors in your use of the device that would significantly reduce its lifespan sooner or later. This should be an interesting benefit in the future, especially for insurance companies.
How does a digital twin work?
In addition to features such as a clearly assignable ID, a digital twin requires three different elements: the original object, the digital twin as a virtual object and the information that links these two. The original object has sensors that measure the most important data for optimization. This data is forwarded to a system where it is processed and evaluated. On the basis of this data, the digital twin can simulate future values and emerging problems, among other things, so that the processes and services depicted can be improved. There are two ways to feed the digital twin with data: with realistic real-time data, but also manually to bring human expertise into the calculations.
What are the benefits of a digital twin?
The digital twin can help the company in every phase of the life cycle of an object. In the first phase, which is mainly about research and the “design” of an object, a digital twin can be used to illustrate the diverse effects of different decisions. This is interesting, for example, for Formula 1 or aircraft construction, where even small changes to the outer shell can have a huge impact on aerodynamics and thus on the speed and fuel consumption of a device. After research comes production – also in this part digital twins can help to work more efficiently, with higher quality standards and higher yields. In the usage phase, availability can be optimized.
In the fourth and final phase, a topic that every company currently has to deal with in terms of corporate image and external impact comes to the fore – the recyclability of the products. Digital twins can help you to identify and implement re- and upcycling potentials. In addition, the digital twin can reveal individual weaknesses in your products, which can be eliminated and your object can be used for a longer period of time.
A brief outlook
In the coming weeks, we would like to continue and deepen our discussion about the digital twin in this blog. You will get to know the best practices as well as realistic application possibilities for your company. We will also show you how we, the team of Tributech, can enhance your digital twins to further improve your processes. Stay tuned.
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Alexander Sztatecsny, who has been working in different areas of Digitalization across the value chain for most of his business life, has recently joined the team of Tributech as COO and Managing Partner and will work with the team to elevate the business to the next level.