Special Report: Digital Twin Technology: The First Step Back To “Normal”

We’re all very aware of the pressure to produce faced by manufacturers across every industry right now. 

A lot of companies are still trying to catch up.

It’s understandable. With a pandemic still affecting day-to-day life and companies struggling to juggle standard practices on top of trying to return to "normal," there’s a lot going on. So it’s no surprise that this year put a damper on production for big tech companies.

However, the technology that I'm about to discuss may not just be a solution, it could be an entire game changer.

NASA has used it, and it’s being used more and more in the electric vehicle (EV) space…

If two major sectors are incorporating it into their future innovations, it HAS to be major, right? 

It’s called digital twin technology. 

You may have read about it in Christian DeHaemer’s recent editorial, or you may have heard about it when the first helicopter flew on the surface of Mars. 

Digital twin technology bridges the virtual and physical worlds. A virtual model of a car or aircraft for instance is replicated via augmented reality to play out the performance of the model displayed. 

Data is harvested from the digital model, scenarios are mapped out through artificial intelligence, then they are integrated through the internet of things (IoT). Next, the data is applied to map out any (if not all) issues the current model could face so that manufacturers can make adjustments accordingly. 

This technology cuts costs since any possible damage is done to the digital model, not the physical one. 

Because of this technology, production rates are expected to increase. Therefore, current shortages could reach an end. 

Everyday commodities and custom products are no exception. The range of digital twin technology is such that it can be applied to a myriad of high-demand products. 

digital twin process

Via Challenge Advisory


Here are three sectors already using this technology...

From the Clouds to the Stars

Mars Helicopter

History was made with this little guy. Ingenuity was the first helicopter to take flight on Mars. How did it happen? First, our friend here had a digital twin. 

The many planned endeavors to our red neighbor must have concrete plans with a very narrow margin of error. If we are planning to put humans on the planet within the next few years, each mission has to be foolproof, right?

This is where digital twin technology comes in.

NASA had been trying to get digital twin technology off the ground (pun intended) for quite some time. In the early stages of its development, NASA made physical duplicates of systems in space and at ground level so they could work on Apollo 13.

When an oxygen tank malfunctioned mid-flight on board Apollo 13 in 1970, “mirrored systems” were quickly developed to rescue the three astronauts in the vessel. This failure could have been catastrophic, but digital twin technology displayed its life-saving capabilities.

John Vickers, the leading manufacturing expert and manager of NASA’s National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, announced his plans to solidify the use of digital twin technology in the production process of future equipment:

The ultimate vision for the digital twin is to create, test, and build our equipment in a virtual environment, Only when we get it to where it performs to our requirements do we physically manufacture it. We then want that physical build to tie back to its digital twin through sensors so that the digital twin contains all the information that we could have by inspecting the physical build.

Any Way the Wind Blows

Many are waiting for the renewables sector to provide a clear path to a greener world.

Lo and behold, digital twin technology will play a major role in this transition as well.

Oil and gas companies are shifting to methods such as carbon capture and utilization and storage investing, as well as liquifying natural gases. 

Then there are solar, wind, and hydrofarms. These methods are higher on the green spectrum.

Oil and gas companies are even imposing deadlines for when they will secure more renewable energy sources. For example, BP aims to attain 50 GW of renewable capacity by 2030. 

Nine years can go by a lot quicker than we think.

Company assets being promised to the public will be in high demand in what seems like no time because the last thing a company wants is to be branded as all talk and no action.

Waldir Pimentel Jr., an industry consultant at the software development company Hexagon PPM, believes that if we're more attentive in developing digital twin technology, we could definitely be ahead in terms of renewable energy:

The digital tools to create a refinery today can be the same to design a wind farm. If companies don’t have these tools or concepts already developed, they would be doing projects like they did 20 years ago. But for companies that have entered into this digital world, they already have the tools they need when they come to plan a new LNG facility or a biogas producing unit. The transition will be much faster...

Pimentel continued to cite digitalization as “the solution to connect everything in one place.”

oc linkfest wind power

On its website, General Electric raves about the benefits digital twin technology provides for wind turbine manufacturing.

Mainly, digital twin technology would help detect the impact of weather. If the wind was blowing harder or not at all, this technology would assess and determine the impact turbines could face.

General Electric engineers use the digital twins of turbines to determine the temperature needed for efficient function and are then able to monitor and estimate the ideal time to power the turbines at full capacity or less. 

Thanks to digital twin technology, a General Electric app is in the works that will provide accessibility to this amount of control. The website itself directs all the credit to this technology:

The app to help field engineers is still being built, but when it’s released into the wild, it will help to keep GE’s efficient turbines running that much better—and it’s all thanks to digital twin technology.

By analyzing the data that each turbine feeds to its virtual double, General Electric expects to increase in efficiency by 20%.

Vehicle Electrification 

Digital Twin Car

Transportation makes up 18% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The electric vehicle sector may feel the most rushed out of the three, with innovation and mass production at the top of its priorities. 

One massive hurdle this sector faces is manufacturing vehicles that have the same range as their standard gas counterparts. 

Speeding up the development of electric vehicles would be the first step in tackling this hurdle. The technology that could catalyze that speed? You guessed it.

Digital twin technology.

Michael Blitz, the managing director of AI developing company Accenture Technology, names digital twin technology one of the top five tech trends:

businesses are finally figuring out how to scale these projects across a fleet of projects, rather than a single one-off.

So a digital twin could be implemented into the said fleet of objects and perform a mass assessment of sorts. From energy management to drivability, even autonomous vehicles could see public use earlier than once thought.

Cutting down the time spent on risk management in the developmental process of EV manufacturing would allow companies, like Volkswagen, that are well-versed in this technology to easily move forward in their future projects.

Volkswagen recognizes the development of the “industrial cloud,” the computing behind the digital twin that uses algorithms to determine what works and what doesn’t. 

Since 2017, Volkswagen has been trying to implement digital twins in its production process. In 2020, Amazon Web Services and Volkswagen came together to focus on the industrial cloud. 

Nihar Patel, the executive vice president of New Business Development at Volkswagen AG, had this to say about the partnership:

With the industrial cloud we are creating a platform allowing partners to contribute their solutions. This will help the Volkswagen Group achieve global efficiencies at its plants. At the same time. we are creating the pathway for partners to scale their applications and optimize their own operations. This way, everyone will benefit.

The industrial cloud will also ensure that all Volkswagen vehicles are consistent in quality across the globe. 

A Simple Solution to a Big Problem

The digital twin market isn’t expected to be worth almost $25 billion by 2025 just for nothing.

Thanks to the good news concerning NASA’s helicopter, struggling companies could see the technology as their saving grace.

Rushing any process can create a decent margin of error, but a digital replica of models has provided economic relief, versatility, and overall efficiency for companies. 

To get updates on which companies could be big winners in implementing digital twin technology, click here!

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