“The Digital Twin will mean different things to different people. If you do operate a power station, it doesn’t matter what the initial design is. But, if you have a certified family of aircraft then it really does matter what the original design records were and how to integrate them.”
We connect this information with Blockchain. We see the Digital Twin as a level of intelligence to predict real world performance and the Blockchain is the connectivity and context for operational decisions. It connects the design, operation and simulation information together.”
Ultimately, a Digital Twin will unify all the data an organisation needs. “The digital model matures through the product design, manufacturing and operation. This digital connectivity through the life cycle can be described as a Blockchain, with data from all stages being fed back into the product ideation and creation stages.”
A manufacturer/operator can link the Digital Twin to its service, manufacturing, design history, real time data and simulation models specific to its configuration and expected failure modes. Comparing these simulation outputs with actual results provides valuable insights into the condition of the asset.”
“A Digital Twin is a dynamic digital representation of a live physical object and needs to represent specific aspects of physical objects like shape, working state and structural behaviour. Digital Twins will dynamically change in near real-time as the state of the physical object changes.”
Digital Twin is simply a virtual representation of all the information users need to supplement their work—no more, no less. It’s a question of scope. Sure, an organisation can gather more data than that one user might need. But that would simply mean there are more Digital Twins for each asset, user or relationship or one Digital Twin that filters data accessible by a user’s role.
Most process control systems that deliver sensor data to a control program provide at least a limited digital model of a component within the system. However, these days, the model can be more robust and combined with other tools like VR For example, a heat sensor might show what part of a device is hotter by showing that portion of a model using false coloring with red indicating higher temperatures.
Use as a tool kit: VR is “Twinned” with designs after they have been developed in the standard design space where models are created and subsequently imported into the digital space for virtual assessment and evaluation.
VR enables users to create designs in a virtual space by pulling, pushing, or stretching, rather than generating them on a screen. Users can create digital 3D objects in front of their eyes, in real time, thus saving time where they would have had to master complex tools to do the process.
As manufacturers look to grow and improve their design processes and customer satisfaction levels, using VR will undoubtedly become more conventional.. VR tools could enable engineers to carry out important analysis on structures and that consumers will be able to enjoy an even greater level of interactivity. going even further to bringing object design into the real world.
The developing relationship between digital design and VR is undeniably exciting both for those in the industry and consumers. Currently, VR remains relatively niche. It may take many more years for it to become mainstream but there is no doubt that the ability to design, manufacture, sample, and customise in the VR space will – at some point in the not so distant future – become the norm.
Many VR tools can be a powerful package for product development that allows the importing and manipulation of, or creation of 3D geometry. It features a Generative Design Tool which iteratively optimises designs given certain constraints.
A Digital Twin has the latest sensor data associated with a matching physical device. A digital twin is often used in process control and product lifecycle management to help monitor or control a remote system. The model doesn’t necessarily need to exactly replicate the physical device. It may even be a 2D representation, but it’s typically combined with other models to provide a context for the information that can be presented or examined.
A computer-aided design CAD model is a representation of a physical entity, and it’s typically used to describe what a physical entity will look like. This can be a 2D or 3D architectural model of a building or a device such as a car. The CAD model provides dimensions and possibly descriptions of materials that would be used in construction.
Tools using CAD designs, digital twins, and simulation models may share characteristics depending on their function, although often a specific tool will create and manipulate a model. For example, a CAD drawing package may be used to create a digital model, and then a process control system would use that model as the basis for a digital twin. That software may provide the linkage between the digital twin’s sensors and controls with those in the real world.
Likewise, a model used in simulation may have characteristics added so that physical simulation is possible. This might include details about the virtual materials used in the model, which in turn would enable the simulation software to replicate how the model will react during the simulation.
When the scope of the Digital Twin is limited, there is a tendency to swing the pendulum too far the other way and conclude that the Digital Twin just a CAD model. The problem here lies in confusing the twin with a model. As stated above, for a Digital Twin to count as such, it needs a physical counterpart with which it can interact.
“While the term Digital Twin is often confused with a 3D CAD model, in reality, the Digital Twin is significantly more complex. “The Digital Twin refers to a specific real-world asset in-service in the field and represents the exact configuration of the product at a point in time. By combining data with an exact product configuration, service and manufacturing processes can be optimised and design improvements identified.”
Digital Twins can be used before a product is live. “The Digital Twin is a means to design and optimise end-user experiences. “It is used before a real product or service is produced, and during the lifetime to the real product, the Digital Twin is used to monitor and adapt the real twin’s functions and performance.
For that purpose, the Digital Twin has to be able to behave like its real twin, being equipped with all its knowledge, capabilities and characteristics.” Once you hook some sensors up to a prototype and link the data back to a digital model you now have a Digital Twin that is live before the product is.
In the end what sets a CAD model apart from the Digital Twin? The CAD model is not automatically changing in response to changes in a physical asset
Digital models used in simulations often have the same type of sensor information and controls of a digital twin, but the information is generated and manipulated as part of the simulation. The simulation may replicate what could happen in the real world, but not what’s currently happening.
A digital twin could be used as a starting point for a simulation model that perhaps extrapolates how a system would operate in the future. The degree and accuracy of these simulations can vary depending on the implementation of the simulation and what type of results are desired.
For example, a digital twin of a gas engine could simply track material consumption, power output, and heat output, but not the actual movement of components within the engine. This level of simulation may be sufficient for checking out how a vehicle would operate when using such an engine.
On the other hand, if the desired results involve how durable a particular part would be within the engine, then the level of detail with respect to the engine would have to be greater. Likewise, simulation of a self-driving car may need to know the output and control characteristics of the engine, but not the details within the engine.
Any system component may incur different models that vary in the degree they replicate the actual component, as well as how they react and what kind of information can be associated with them. The models may have different purposes, but they may also share common descriptions such as details about dimensions, material attributes, etc. Many models will be used by multiple applications for different purposes, from showing the status of a current system to simulating a device that has yet to be constructed.
“Using the Digital Twin in simulation can both improve operational procedures, and in contingency planning, it can even be embedded in the control system loop,. “In the future, Digital Twins in manufacturing will help detect potential quality issues earlier on, or even improve the quality of the product being manufactured through delivery of new design tech.
Engineers will be able to use simulations linked to the Digital Twin to predict how the physical twin will perform in a real-world environment instead of the ideal and perceived worst-case conditions outlined in the design process.
“The Digital Twin by itself doesn’t do any good unless it has interactions with its environment. So, you also need to model its environment. "Depending on the nature of the interactions with the environment, and how well it is instrumented, that may well be the bigger challenge. For the system itself, you have the option to put in whatever sensors you need, but for its environment you don’t get to do that.”
Even so, this is why it will be important to link up various simulation technologies to Digital Twins to meet the application at hand. Sure, you might need some slower 3D simulations for a twin in the design or prototyping stage. But for operations, 1D simulations and 1D characterizations of 3D simulations are often sufficient.
“Traditional simulation performed during the design phase of a product’s lifecycle can be perceived as a slow process, because many different use cases must be investigated based upon best estimates of the conditions the product will be subjected to in the real world. But, with the benefit of large amounts of data, actual operating conditions can be simulated with confidence, quickly yielding actionable intelligence.
The Digital Twin is a tool that can potentially account for the whole system of a product or service. It keeps track of all the information about a system you need and from that information assists in the decision-making process.
Digital Twin are “a digital model that accurately represents a product, production process or the performance of a product or production system in operation. Digital Twin is a representation of a real thing. This precludes simulations from counting as twins all by themselves. “A Digital Twin isn’t a twin until it has a twin. A physical product must exist.
Digital Twin is often related to model-based thinking because it links real world data to a systems engineering model of the whole lifecycle of a physical product or service. Though a twin can focus on one aspect of a product, its full potential is unleashed only when its usefulness spans multiple silos in an organisation.
“If we take the life cycle we have design, manufacturing, services and operations, and then end of life. The benefits of the Digital Twin for each step is different. For design, the twin’s main purpose is to set the performance of the product for the lifecycle. For manufacturing, it’s to optimise the process and reduce costs. For services, it is to reduce the operational cost and to use predictive methods. The idea is to bring simulation into this lifecycle information: you have a physical asset where you link it to a parallel Digital Twin.”
A sufficiently robust Digital Twin could lead us to do away with the concept of job roles all together.“To unify and understand the enormous and diverse information about the Digital Twin, innovators have to overcome traditional, siloed-expert thinking. Of course you need the capabilities to scientifically and physically simulate all the pieces working together as intended. But, engineers also need methods and tools to foster a behavioural dimension to their structured, physical and procedural information.
So, what does a system-level twin look like? To the individual user it will look any another other Digital Twin, since it will only given them the information that they find interesting. After all, why would sales or marketing need to know everything the engineering team would need to know?
So, engineers will be able to make a system-wide simulation of a product or service for the Digital Twin. Digital Twin can incorporate 3D data/simulations, characterizations of the 3D data/simulations using response surface models, 1D simulations and 0D simulations. The 1D and 0D simulations, as well as the response surface models are used to speed up the system models so they are no longer waiting for slower 3D simulation.
Some argue they can sketch in 2D quicker. But this only refers to one aspect of a design i.e. how it might look from chosen angles. Even then, a sketch is at best an artistic prompt for what something might be. It’s not spatially exact. It has its place, but it is limited.
This leads us onto the question of ‘is it possible to design only using digital tools? That question is probably best answered with another question: ‘is it possible to design only using physical tools?’. The extraordinary capability that digital tools have given us no longer makes the latter commercially viable at scale.
But at the same time, despite being an advocate for a digital-first approach to design, as long as we are designing physical products we will never completely remove the need for physical tools. The trick is knowing when it’s best to use them and understanding why you would use them over quicker, more efficient digital alternatives.
Designers only working with sketches would have to get a sketch signed off, move onto the next part of the project, and even the part after that, before they realise that what they designed earlier on isn’t actually possible. The team will then have to start deviating from the original design, which has already been signed off on, and you end up a million miles from the concept and the finish line of the project.
Some designers instinctively want to use pencils to sketch, which is a fantastic skill to have. But we teach them how they can sketch faster and more intuitively in 3D. Once they get past the initial block of learning how to express themselves in a new medium they get on much better because it offers far greater opportunities and benefits in other parts of the project.
For example, as technology develops, we’re finding that it’s often easier to show clients videos and animations of our concept work to help them understand the design, rather than a static image or sketch. That stage can be reached very quickly if you’ve worked in digital from the outset.
At the point of launch, new products often have things that could have been done better in hindsight. Even with this being so there is no reason to make sure by not using tools that are already available to use.
For example, you might be constructing a spatial model in a digital workspace to work on product function but then you might consider that the part looks a bit thin and express concern it will be strong enough. Because been designing in digital we can take the data I already have, the same sketch, and with an hour or two of extra manipulation you can use your computer to test if it is in fact strong enough.
Of course, further testing and development will be needed, but it’s that ability to troubleshoot and test concepts from the outset which makes designing in digital such a no-brainer where efficiency and productivity are concerned.
If you’ve designed a product in digital and shown a video of it to a customer so they get a good sense of how it looks and behaves from all angles, you could then machine quite a primitive, inexpensive model to show them how big it looks sat in a room with them. In this scenario a physical model doesn’t need to be any more elaborate or expensive than that because its only purpose is to demonstrate physical size and scale.
The digital work does the rest and is far more powerful and flexible. After all, it’s much easier to change the material of a product on a video than it is to re-spray and re-finish a physical model and while you’re at it you could even find out if the change in material has an impact on weight and function of the product.
In a recent consumer electronics project, we used our digital approach for the vast majority of the design work. To accompany it, we created a basic 3D-printed model to test how it all fit together and how it felt to use. We then moved onto a sampling-up stage before manufacturing.
We didn’t have to do physical mock-ups and models of how it looked, or spend years developing the design, because of the efficiency of our digital sketching and prototyping approach. It simply gets us to a manufacturing stage far quicker than more traditional approaches.
Designers must make decision at every stage of a project about how to balance digital and physical approaches to achieve the best results for them and their client. This means sketching, concept work and prototyping belong largely in the digital realm because it gives us the greatest flexibility and a head-start over physical sketches/models that simply aren’t as useful, flexible or powerful as their digital counterparts.
Switching to a digital system can help you earn more high value business. Work directly on customer data, or designed data, offline, and keep the dial turning more often. Here is a list of benefits realised with upgrading to Digital Twin programming.
1. Reduce time spent programming
Typically, the machine is not running as one programs a part on the controller, or when they perform a dry run prior to making parts. In a digital environment, you can program the part offline, while the mill is running something else. Also, you can simulate the program, to show exactly how it will run on the mill, saving time necessary for a dry run. If you program manually, you have to learn to program on every different controller and future purchases within the shop.
2. Better visualising tooling and work holding
When programming by hand, you may have to take into consideration the location of fixtures and clamps to avoid collisions. These can be imported into a digital model and visualised and avoided automatically.
3. Fast part changes
Any time a part changes one must either sort through the code to make changes, or start over. Digital systems maintain associativity between the part and the program, where if the part is edited, the cutterpaths will automatically update
4. Quality of program, maximising output
A digital system can create cutterpaths where the chip removal rate is constant at all times. This will allow you to run at a maximum feed for the chip at all times. This is virtually impossible to calculate manually, and as a result, machine operators often run at reduced speeds most of the time.
5. Stop recreating parts
If you are manually programming to a drawing, odds are someone already created a 3D model of the part. Don’t waste time recreating what’s already been designed, work on the original 3D file from the start.
6. Take on more difficult work
Expand your capabilities by taking on work that would be unrealistic to program manually. Not only do many of these more difficult parts pay better, but you now have a larger pool of potential work to draw from.
7. Quote more accurately and quickly
Utilise a digital system during the quoting process to ensure your run times are as accurate as possible. This allows you to more accurately quote parts, and more regularly have the correct profit built in.
8. Work Offline
Design and program parts while the machine is running another job. Take your work on the road and make updates and changes anytime, anywhere, and upload the data or save it to the as needed.
9. Collaborate better
Have a question on a part, and need a quick answer? Collaboration tools allow you to share your question, on the digital 3D model, with others, and get immediate feedback.
10. Maximise machine utilisation
Besides helping to keep the machines running while you program offline, utilising digital simulation can provide the confidence needed to run unattended or overnight. This can greatly improve machine utilisation and increase profits while simultaneously reducing downtime.