From flying to Mars to building a better mountain bike: Digital twins make products better and processes more efficient. Discover the advantages to giving objects a real-time digital clone.
Simulating the spaceship’s behavior under various conditions without risk to anyone. Using augmented and virtual reality systems to visualize repairs and maintenance. Easily inspecting different parts of the craft – even while it’s flying in space: When astronauts board NASA’s Orion spaceship in 15 years to travel to Mars, they’ll take a digital copy along for the ride. Solar panels, engines – everything down to individual valves: This digital twin will be a virtual duplicate of the actual physical spaceship. All conditions it experiences during the flight will also be modeled in real-time. It sounds just like the 2016 Hollywood film Passengers: The protagonists work to fix their ailing starship with the help of a highly detailed live simulation offering not just information about damage – but also suggestions on how to repair it.
DIGITAL TWINS BOOST EFFICIENCY BY 10 PERCENT
But such digital twins aren’t just interesting for NASA astronauts. A closed manufacturing information cycle makes data analysis and system monitoring in real-time possible. That means that modern factories aren’t just producing products completely digitally – they’re also producing a constant stream of digital data. Modeled simultaneously, they are available at all times virtually. IT research firm Gartner forecasts that around half of all large companies will work with digital twins by 2021. This should make organizations some 10 percent more efficient. Driving these developments is the Internet of Things: It’s the real-time IoT data that brings a digital twin to life.
The German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk reported on the advantages of digital twins after a visiting the automation experts at Bosch-Rexroth: Engineers at the firm calculate the wear and tear on machines while they’re in operation, keep an eye on every single part of an assembly and recognize where stress might cause a malfunction. It all saves time and money. Industrial giant Siemens is also working with dynamic software modeling in order to merge the analog and digital worlds: Factories can react flexibly and individually to customer requests and produce in smaller quantities. Besides plants and production processes, there is also a competitive advantage to digitalizing products throughout their lifecycles. For example, T-Systems provides IoT retrofit solutions for manufacturing equipment and the accompanying platforms for processing the data.
“Once a digital twin has been realized, companies can use the information and also the functionality for the entire production and service lifecycle,” says Frank Lamack, Senior Consultant at T-Systems. Regardless if it’s machinery, shoes or bicycles – there are benefits for all kinds of manufacturing. “They leave themselves less exposed to chance events when it comes to the product development phase, that is, while doing research and development.” And that means that where once manufacturers had to carry out laborious surveys, now they can use data to find solutions much more quickly. “Take the example of the mountain bike. This now completely established product segment was entirely unknown to established manufacturers until it was created,” says T-Systems consultant Lamack. “Having a product transmitting its status would have enabled the discovery of new trends much earlier.”
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Connected mobility and industry-specific IoT know-how are the topics of choice for Daniel Kunz when he writes articles for the blog. He has been with T-Systems since 2017 and is extensively involved with the Internet of Things and all the associated trends.