For many industries, digital twin technology is the future.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of digital twin technology, list the main types of digital twins, and provide real examples of how businesses are using digital twin technology to unlock new value and gain deeper insights from their data.
Table of Contents
- What is a Digital Twin?
- Why Use Digital Twins?
- What are the Main Types of Digital Twins?
- Examples of Digital Twins in Practice
What is a Digital Twin?
A digital twin is not just a copy or clone of something. It is a dynamic, real-time representation of an object or system that can be used to understand and optimize its performance.
Thanks to sensors, actuators, and other connected devices, the digital twin can also be used to control the physical object or system in real-time. This makes it possible to test new ideas and strategies in a virtual environment before implementing them in the real world.
Why Use Digital Twins?
Digital twins are one of the leading technologies driving digital transformation across several industries, from automotive and aerospace, to retail and healthcare applications.
Regardless of the industry, there are several reasons why companies should consider using digital twins, including:
Improve product design and development
Digital twins can help manufacturers to test products before they are built. They can be used to simulate the performance of products in different scenarios and identify any potential problems early on in the design process. This helps to reduce the risk of product failure and speeds up the development process.
Monitor and manage products and systems in real-time
Two of the most important things to businesses are cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Digital twins can help to improve both of these. By monitoring and managing products and systems in real-time, businesses can make sure that they are running as efficiently as possible.
Understand how products work
By providing a virtual replica of a product, digital twins allow customers to get a better understanding of how it works, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
What are the Main Types of Digital Twins?
Digital twin technology can be divided into four distinct types, each of which has its own unique characteristics and benefits. These are component, asset, system and process twins. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Component twins are digital models of individual components or parts, such as motors, sensors, switches and valves. They provide detailed information about a component’s performance and behavior both in real-time and over time. This helps organizations monitor the health and performance of these components and make necessary changes when needed.
Asset twins are digital models of physical assets such as buildings, machines and vehicles. They provide information on an asset’s operational status, performance data, and environmental conditions in real-time. This helps organizations reduce downtime and improve the efficiency of their operations.
System twins are digital models of entire systems or processes. They allow organizations to monitor and analyze a system’s performance and identify areas where improvements can be made. System twins enable organizations to optimize their processes and improve the way they operate.
Process twins are digital models of entire business processes or customer journeys. They provide detailed information on how customers interact with an organization’s products and services in real-time. This helps organizations to identify areas where customer experience can be improved.
Examples of Digital Twins in Practice
Projected to grow to $125.9 billion by the year 2040 from just $6.5 billion in 2021, it’s no question industries across the board are starting to see the value of digital twins. Below are a few examples of how companies are using digital twins today.
Ford – Manufacturing
Manufacturing is a huge industry and one of the most important sectors for digital twins. In fact, Ford was one of the first companies to implement a digital twin strategy. The company uses digital twins to monitor and manage its manufacturing processes in real-time, making sure that products are manufactured as efficiently as possible and that resources are used effectively.
Ford has also used digital twins to improve product design. For example, the company has used them to simulate the impact of different manufacturing processes on the durability of its products.
GE – Aviation
GE is another company that has been using digital twins for several years. The company has used digital twins to improve the design and performance of a wide range of products, including jet engines and gas turbines. GE has used digital twins to create a “virtual engine” that can be used to test new ideas and strategies before implementing them in the real world. This helps to reduce the risk of product failure and speeds up the development process.
Through real-time monitoring capabilities from digital twins, the company has saved customers 1.6 billion dollars. They’ve also reduced product waste by up to 75% and overall costs by up to 30% due to an upfront, end-to-end view of the product.
ABB – Robotics
Robotics is another industry that is benefiting from the rise of digital twins. ABB, a leading robotics company, uses digital twins to test robotic configurations on virtual production lines before they are built in real life. This simulation has simplified the configuration process and has led to a reduction in the number of prototypes that need to be built.
Having digital twins available means ABB can simulate the entire robot installation process virtually and additionally allows a seamless picking process for factories and product lines. As a result, there is a shortened time to market and faster installation of product lines – two things crucial to modern-day consumption.
Intermarché – Retail
Intermarché, a French supermarket chain, is using digital twins to improve the customer experience in its stores. The digital twin tracks the movement of customers and analyzes their interactions with products so Intermarché can gain insights into what products people are interested in and how they are interacting with them. This information can then be used to improve product placement and design and to create targeted marketing campaigns.
Other than customer analysis, Intermarché has leveraged digital twins to improve its supply chain. For example, the company has used digital twins to model the impact of different weather conditions on product availability and to optimize stock levels.
The Living Heart Project – Healthcare
Could you imagine using digital twins to study the heart? The Living Heart Project is a research initiative that uses digital twins to revolutionize education and training in the healthcare industry. With a virtual replica of a human heart, researchers can study its behavior and dynamics in ways that would not be possible with real hearts. The best part? Healthcare professionals can then improve the understanding of heart disease and develop new treatments.
As heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death, this novel technology can help reduce costs and delays, instill confidence, and improve patient safety.
Shanghai, China – Urban Planning
Shanghai, China is one of the most populous cities in the world. And with a population of 28.5 million and counting, it’s also one of the fastest-growing. To keep up with the growth, Shanghai is using digital twins to optimize its urban planning.
Beijing-based 51World is one company that is helping Shanghai with its urban planning. Using its 3D mapping and simulation technology, 51World is able to create digital twins of entire cities down to the street level.
Creating a virtual replica of the city means that planners can test new ideas and strategies before implementing them in the real world, avoid costly mistakes and allow for more efficient use of resources. The digital twin is also used to monitor the city’s performance and make changes in real-time as needed.
Digital twins are becoming an increasingly important part of many industries. By creating a virtual replica of a physical object or system, companies can unlock new value and insights from their data.
Although they already seem commonplace, being used in a number of industries including healthcare, urban planning, and manufacturing, digital twins are still in their infancy.
The potential for these technologies is only just starting to be realized. As more and more companies begin to adopt digital twins, the future looks very bright.