A digital twin is an evolving mirror of a live asset that enables predictive maintenance. The technology influences the design, production and operation of a product.
A growing number of companies are using virtual representations of real objects, known as digital twins, to boost quality, efficiency and safety. According to a report by Gartner, 48% of the organizations that are implementing the internet of things are either already using, or plan to start using digital twins soon.
A good example is the Siemens factory in Amberg, Germany, which has a digital twin that is identical in every respect. It is used to plan the production process and programme machines, as well as for designing products and testing them.
Once there is an efficient working model and all the bugs have been ironed out, the physical factory begins production. The technology has allowed the factory to scale production to 15 million units a year, a 13-fold increase since 1989, without hiring more people, or moving into larger premises.
Digital twins are not restricted to the world of smart manufacturing. A leading oil expert claims that creating a digital twin of an asset can generate significant cost savings and increase production.
Elsewhere, a growing number of major infrastructure assets have digital twins. In Australia, for example, more than 2 000 sensors monitor the physical integrity of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in order to align it with a digital twin.
The bridge is just over a kilometre long, but the biggest object with a digital twin can probably be found at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland. The 27km loop of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is not only the world’s largest particle accelerator, but may also be the largest machine ever built.
Every component in the LHC is logged in an enterprise asset management (EAM) system as a digital twin.
The technology is made possible by the prevalence of inexpensive sensors, networks for the reliable transmission of data and intelligent analytics systems to process and make decisions. Technology is easily available and is enabling manufacturers to understand how their machines influence a product’s tolerances, stresses and design.
According to Siemens the defect rate at the Amberg plant is close to zero. This is all the more remarkable given that the plant manufactures 1 200 different products on the same production lines.
Find out how International Standards support smart manufacturing here.