Has the term “the digital twin” already come under your eyes? Especially in the course of Industry 4.0 based processes, the digital twin plays an important role in this. He basically describes nothing more than the depiction of a real object in the digital world.

However, since this can only be mapped online in the form of data and algorithms, a copy of a real object – the digital twin – is created in this way.

Meaning of the digital twin

The digital twin is used to digitally map tangible or intangible products, such as products, services or even entire processes. This is for either later use or real-time based analysis. It is done by the digital twin being coupled with the existing world via sensors. This may affect, for example, the environment or the use of machinery. By digitally playing through certain scenarios, they can serve as a basis for making forecasts. Such predictions and simulations play an important role, especially in the field of Industry 4.0. After all, they have a significant influence on future production and development processes. As a rule, a digital twin is created starting with the product development, which then passes through the same stations in the development process, usually preferred to the real object. Thanks to these virtual simulations, important milestones of a material or intangible product can be optimally planned, optimised or even completely redesigned if required.

Building a digital twin

The image of a digital twin requires three building blocks in particular:

  • a real object
  • a digital imaging space
  • as well, the data and values associated with the real object.

On the basis of this information, algorithms can then be mapped that reflect the real-time data of the real object online. In many industries, a product usually produces even several digital twins, which are eventually combined into a holistic digital twin. This approach is not only due to the fact that products with many sub-objects often produce large amounts of data (keyword: Big data), which makes a single digital twin quickly becomes too complex and confusing, but also because only individual, faulty processes have to be changed instead of performing a completely new scenario analysis.

In the automotive industry, for example, it is necessary to create individual digital twins for the respective vehicle parts such as body, chassis, tyres or engine, which, like the engine itself, can once again be divided into several digital twins. But also in the area of entire production facilities, the use of several individual digital twins is often used, whereby here usually a triple subdivision takes place. As a rule, digital twins are

  • of a 3D model
  • of machines, tools and processes
  • and key figures and data such as production, quality or delivery times.

Shown.

Areas of application of a digital twin

Based on their main use in the field of Products and Products of Industry 4.0, digital twins are strongly represented in the fields of production technology and subcontracting. Finally, such a virtual image can be drawn to the aid within the production technology already at the design phase of an object and thus accompany a product throughout its entire development process. This also makes it possible to dispense with often cost-consuming and time-consuming prototypes. Nevertheless, you can also continuously optimize such important parameters of a real object, such as quality, utility or efficiency, or also plan recycling options.

In addition, manufacturers can use a digital twin to virtually check the quality and accuracy of the real objects delivered without having to resort to a prototype. As a result, processes in the field of manufacturing can be planned and tested much more simply and in a more complex way.

Examples of digital twins

Imagine: A picture of the entire real value creation processes as virtual production. The car to be produced runs virtually live through a deserted, dark factory while the virtual team works on the digital twin. Maintenance, corrections, robot control, intervention, changes, everything happens in the digital twin just like in the factory.

Now transferred to project management, we have arrived in the complete virtual project. Each of our decisions has a direct impact on reality. Virtual plan becomes real actual. So the construction site will grow virtually as fast as in real. Many thanks to Tobias Greff of the AWS Institute for the input in this paragraph.

Benefits of Digital Twins

It is easy to see that there are many benefits from the use of digital twins. In particular, faulty product areas or processes can be identified and rectified much more quickly. But even on the basis of other advantages, a digital twin can significantly improve the overall quality and efficiency of a real object.

  • Optimization options already during object planning
  • error-free processes and processes
  • Execution of various tests and simulations
  • more efficient and accurate forecasting options
  • faster and flawless commissioning of objects
  • Possibility of continuous monitoring and optimization
  • Time and cost savings due to the absence of elaborate prototypes
  • Real-time-based overview of the development process of a real object
  • More targeted coordination with dealers and suppliers

Excursion: the digital twin in knowledge work

Here, too, this is extreme, the total virtual image of a knowledge worker. I imagine the future like my colleague Tobias Greff from the AWS Institute. Our idea is a virtual project manager, who puts together a team in a platform for the problem and is selected according to professional expertise, verified references, star rankings or recommendations from the professional social network. The virtual team will be complemented by intelligent bots, i.e. assistance services with artificial intelligence designed for specific topics.

You write the logs and transcribe the results. Automatically generate PowerPoint slides, Excel calculations or perform information searches on request. The team is thus put together.

So off to the first customer meeting and quickly with just a few clicks, the outfit adapted, because according to statistical expectations only jeans and shirts belong to the innovation project.

Conclusion

The digital twin thus describes a key key factor in digitalization and Industry 4.0. By linking real-world information to virtual prototypes based on real-time information, the digital twin has enormous potential for many industries, such as production technology or subcontracting. Researchers are currently working simultaneously to make digital twins usable for cross-platform use, enabling cross-vendor and automated exchange.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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