Understanding Digital Twins: Simulating Products, Processes, Even People - Stefanini

Understanding Digital Twins: Simulating Products, Processes, Even People

Imagine measuring the performance of a new product, process, or system without needing a real world, physical model but having access to all the real-time data provided by one. Digital twin technology offers precisely this to the businesses and teams that use it. 

What is a digital twin? 

A digital twin is exactly that; a twin, a virtual double of a real-world object, process, product, or system rendered by a computer program. Digital twin technology uses a virtual representation model to simulate and test different scenarios, allowing engineers, designers, and teams to identify potential problems and optimize performance. These digital replicas can incorporate artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics to enhance output. 

How does a digital twin work? 

Digital twins are created by replicating a physical asset in a virtual environment, including its functionality, features, and behavior. Using smart sensors that collect data, a digital representation of the asset is created which provides a real-time, virtual representation of a physical object or system, allowing for more accurate and efficient analysis and decision-making. 

What types of digital twins are there?  

There are various types of digital twins, including product, process, and system digital twins.

Product Digital Twins

used to improve physical products, while process digital twins focus on specific manufacturing or operational processes.

System Digital Twins

model entire systems, such as power grids or communication networks. Engineers, system architects, and medical professionals can also use system digital twins to represent complex systems such as the human body or society, as in the case of studying the community spread of COVID-19. 

How is a digital twin different from a simulation?  

A digital twin is much more than a simulation. While a simulation is typically a computer model that replicates a real-world system or process, a digital twin goes beyond that by using real-time data to create a virtual model of that physical product, system, or process. In short, a digital twin is a dynamic, living replica of a real-world system, while a simulation is a static, one-time model. 

Is there a difference between digital twins and virtual models? 

While virtual models are used to simulate and test different scenarios, digital twins are virtual models that connect in real-time to their physical counterparts. This connection allows for ongoing monitoring and analysis of real-world performance and enables engineers and system architects to make more informed decisions about design, maintenance, and optimization. 

What are the benefits of digital twin technology? 

Digital twin technology offers many potential benefits and advantages, including:  

  • Allow businesses to monitor and optimize their physical assets in real-time, helping identify potential issues before they occur and giving time to make necessary adjustments which improve efficiency and reduce downtime. 
  • Better collaboration and communication between different departments and teams. By creating a shared virtual environment, engineers and designers can collaborate more effectively, sharing ideas and feedback in real-time. Improved collaboration can lead to faster iteration, innovation, and more effective communication. 
  • Stakeholders can easily visualize system or object performance leading to improved decision-making, more effective problem-solving, and ultimately, an improved customer experience. 
  • Cost savings due to monitoring and optimizing physical assets in real time, reducing maintenance costs, improving energy efficiency, and increasing the lifespan of assets.  

There is one important challenge to note regarding digital twin technology. This technology needs high-fidelity data and models which can be time-consuming and expensive to create. However, it is essential to ensure that virtual models are accurately calibrated to real-world conditions to ensure that simulation results are reliable and representative. 

Which industries use digital twin technology? 

Digital twin technology is used in many different industries including healthcare, manufacturing, and automotive engineering. Since digital twins can be used to model any complex system or product, there are many exciting and innovative applications of this modeling technology.  

Automotive 

In the automotive industry, digital twin technology allows engineers and designers to simulate and test different scenarios before building physical prototypes leading to significant improvements in product design and testing, as well as cost savings, faster time-to-market, and better customer experience. 

One area where virtual representations are particularly useful in the automotive industry is vehicle crash testing. By creating digital twins of vehicles and simulating crashes, automotive engineers can identify potential safety issues and optimize vehicle design to improve crashworthiness. This not only helps to protect passengers in the event of a crash, but it can also reduce the cost of physical testing and speed up the design process. Tesla creates a digital twin for every car it sells.  

Manufacturing 

Due to the level of similarity between general manufacturing and the automotive industry, many of the benefits for manufacturing are similar to those already listed above for the automotive industry. Virtual manufacturing can employ digital twin technology to test factory design, individual machines, and for improvements to process, time-savings, collaboration, and asset management.  

Healthcare 

Using patient data, population data, real-time updates, and environmental data, health digital twins can be used to gain insight into the expected behavior and health care outcomes of the physical twin, leading to potential breakthroughs in precision medicine, clinical trials, and public health outcomes.  

Forbes.com reports that, “Some truly groundbreaking digital twins have been developed in recent years that are… helping to push the envelope of what is possible in the fields of science, medicine, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and sports.”  

The article goes on to share that, “Former GE CEO Bill Ruh predicts that one day, every human will have a digital twin at birth, which can be used to design bespoke treatments for that person when they become ill, as well as model the impact of lifestyle choices on his or her long-term health.” 

This cutting-edge technology is also an effective tool for driving business process transformation, opening the door for its use in digital transformation initiatives at companies of all sizes.  

How do businesses ensure that the virtual models accurately reflect real-world conditions and behaviors, especially when dealing with complex systems or processes? 

Businesses can ensure that virtual models accurately reflect real-world conditions and behaviors by collecting and analyzing data from sensors and other sources to continuously update and improve the digital twin models. Additionally, they can run simulations and tests to validate the accuracy of the models and adjust them accordingly. Collaboration between engineers, data scientists, and domain experts can also help ensure that the models are comprehensive and reflect the complexities of the real-world systems and processes. 

What are the applications of digital twin technology? 

Digital twin technology has numerous applications, including predictive maintenance and optimization of physical assets and complex systems. It can also provide data-backed insights for decision-making and problem-solving by identifying patterns and anomalies in real-time data. AI-powered algorithms are the driving force behind the effectiveness of this technology. 

Digital twins can improve the user experience of any system or process. For example, cybersecurity professionals can use digital twin technology to create a virtual replica of a system, network, or device. This allows for real-time monitoring and analysis of potential security threats and the ability to identify vulnerabilities and implement appropriate safeguards. By simulating potential cyber-attacks and proactively addressing weaknesses, organizations can better protect themselves against cyber threats and minimize the risk of data breaches or other security incidents.  

Additionally, digital twins can be used as a production environment to test and validate security updates and patches before implementing them in the live environment, reducing the potential for unintended consequences or further vulnerabilities. Digital twins offer a powerful solution for enhancing cybersecurity and safeguarding sensitive information and assets, which is crucial for successful digital transformation initiatives. 

What role does artificial intelligence play in digital twin technology? 

Artificial intelligence is crucial to digital twin technology. AI enables the virtual model to gather and analyze real-time data from the physical asset, allowing for predictive maintenance and optimization. AI-powered algorithms can identify patterns and anomalies in the data, providing valuable insights for decision-making and problem-solving. In short, AI is the driving force behind the effectiveness of digital twin technology. 

Improve operations, reduce costs, and increase efficiency with digital twins 

By providing real-time data and insights, digital twin technology can help businesses improve operations, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. Companies looking to stay ahead in this increasingly competitive marketplace should contact our team of experts to determine how advanced AI technology like virtual models can positively impact your business’s digital transformation and cybersecurity efforts. 

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