Big data has been the talk of the industry since the last few years. As we enter into a new decade, we can only expect the quantity of data in all industrial sectors to increase further. Today’s connected world makes it easier than ever to get our hands on data from multiple sources, while also remaining in the confines of data protection laws, like the GDPR. Therefore, not exploiting this data to improve products and processes is a serious missed opportunity for firms.
How to utilize a plethora of data and convert it into useful information is where the idea of Digital Twins comes in.
Digital Twin is a concept associated with Industry 4.0. It can be defined as a digital representation of a physical object, system or process, thus the digital replica of any living or non-living physical entity.
A digital twin is usually constructed out of CAD, BIM, PLM and 3D data. It is therefore not a new phenomenon in the sense that the technologies mentioned above are being used by product and process teams since decades. Thus, a digital twin, as we have known it all along, is a 3D model demonstrated on 2D screens. What makes it the epitome of industry 4.0 however, is the mix of technologies powering it at present:
- A digital twin uses Internet of Things (IOT) for intelligently connecting networks and systems, and the large amounts of data within them. This data can then be analyzed which enables a digital twin to learn and improve, like its real-world counterpart.
- Cloud computing is the platform that allows the creation of scalable storage solutions and analytics clusters for big data. No dependence on physical servers means easy, 24/7 access to resources from any part of the world.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are other technologies supporting digital twins as they help predict future performance using past data and trends.
- Advanced visualization technologies, like VR and AR, are one of the most significant aspects as they have the ability to convert a simple digital twin into a virtual twin.
Virtual Twin (Using VR to enhance Digital Twins)
Virtual reality bridges the gap between the physical and virtual world. Using VR, data can be observed in 3D and transmitted seamlessly to ensure that each and every happening in the physical entity is immediately replicated in the virtual system, thus allowing both to coexist.
Benefits, Use Cases and Examples from Industry
By using virtual reality, 3D models or digital twins can be observed in 360 degree immersive environments, where viewers can interact with the objects in real-time. These highly automated simulations not only allow better visualization but also effective evaluation of data. Therefore, interlinking VR technologies with digital twins would mean greater insight into the data, leading to more significant findings, and in turn, greater monetization.
Another huge advantage of virtual twins is time efficiency. Immediate reflection in the virtual twin means that appropriate actions can be taken for happenings in real-time, without delays. This timely predictive maintenance means faster responsiveness, reduced waste, better performance and of course higher profits as a result.
Furthermore, virtual twins can be created for any business function, in any industrial sector, e.g. procurement, manufacturing, training, and selling. What-if scenarios can be constructed and tested on the virtual twin and once they prove to be fruitful, they can be implemented to the actual function as well. This opportunity for risk-free comparison means that no heavy costs are incurred and various processes are optimized throughout the supply chain.Use cases of virtual twins include product simulations, e.g. for the automotive or aerospace industry. This helps in managing the product life cycle better. Digital layout planning can be visualized, which would greatly benefit the AEC sector, as clients can carry out virtual tours of physical sites prior to construction. Similarly in the logistics industry, material flows and infrastructure setups can be virtually conceptualized before implementation. (Picture courtesy: Our client AF Packaging Solutions)
Considering the benefits of virtual twins, the increasing number of organizations already working on developing virtual twins is not astonishing. Notable examples of companies incorporating digital twins in their practices include Siemens, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, Bosch, Cisco Systems, and DHL.
Digital twins can be characterized as one of the most disruptive technologies of Industry 4.0. However, successful implementation of this data-intensive system is not easy. Along with huge investments in information storage and processing, to connect networks and systems and manage enormous amounts of data, companies also require access to various technologies like AI, cloud computing, and VR.
vr-on GmbH has already collaborated with multiple firms, regardless of the industry they belong to, in effective deployment of digital twins for their products and processes. Our customers are now able to better analyse big data and keep relevant business functions updated according to technological changes. In case you are also willing to realize the benefits of virtual twins, we can help you in achieving this feat so that you can succeed in the highly competitive and connected industrial world of today. You can start your free trial of STAGE now or contact us with your queries :)