What is the future of digital twinning

Digital twins

Digital twin

Driver of the digital revolution

Today, the most complex products and processes are developed, tested and optimized in the virtual world before they are manufactured in the real world. For this purpose, the future products are created and simulated as software models - as so-called digital twins.

Modern production facilities no longer exist only in the physical world. Regardless of whether it is milling machines, assembly line robots, fully automated warehouses, air conditioning or lighting systems, they send signals to computers and servers on site and thus enable a constant snapshot of the current state of a factory. This not only helps the operators at control panels to know what is happening in their plants. You can also use the information to increase productivity, ensure safety and quickly adapt to changing conditions. There is a digital tool that facilitates this process of continuous optimization like no other today - the “digital twin”.

Digital twins are virtual counterparts of products, machines, processes or even entire production systems that contain all relevant data and simulation models - be it for an electronic circuit, a factory, rail vehicles or buildings. Digital twins not only allow products to be designed, simulated and manufactured more quickly, they also make it possible to design them to be particularly cheap, powerful, robust or environmentally friendly, depending on your needs. In addition, the virtual doppelganger can accompany a product like a digital shadow through all stages of the value chain - from production and operation to service or even recycling. Ideally, it seamlessly links three Ps: product, production and performance.

Optimization of the development

Efficiency before the first groundbreaking

Digital twins make it possible to develop better products in less time. Faster product development with higher quality - this is possible because with this technology products can not only be designed virtually, but also tested before physical models are built. The virtual doppelganger also increases the efficiency of the design, as this can be run through and tested with more configurations than would be physically possible in a comparable time.

Digital twins make it possible, for example, to increase the energy efficiency of a new building: With the geometric data of all building elements, with the schedules and budgets for the entire project, the relevant data on energy supply, lighting, fire protection and building management, it is no longer a problem today to optimize the carbon footprint of a building before the groundbreaking ceremony.

The potential of the digital twin is far from exhausted after the completion of a product. It can continue to collect data during operation, for example about physical loads, which components fail or how an object - be it a milling machine, an airplane or a building - is mainly used. This information not only helps with optimization during operation, it also supports designers, architects and engineers in preparing the next generation of a product. "The aim of this development is a closed cycle that connects the virtual world of product development and production planning with the physical world of production system and product performance," says Dirk Hartmann, leading expert for simulations at Siemens Corporate Technology.


Digital twins are becoming increasingly important

Karen E. Willcox is an applied mathematician and Director of the Institute of Computational Engineering and Sciences. Her work on simplified simulation models enables the development and design of complex systems such as aircraft to be accelerated.