Jonas Ljungberg, System Engineer
The Digital Twin is revolutionizing processes along the entire value chain. It enables individual process stages to be seamlessly linked and validated prior to investing in physical prototypes and assets. What isn’t always realized about the digital twin, however, is that it is far more than a virtual representation of a product during the design stage. In addition, it is a valuable tool in modeling production process and in optimizing overall performance. Benefits include a consistent improvement in efficiency, minimization of failure rates, shorter development cycles, the creation of new business opportunities and gaining a lasting competitive edge. Let’s look at each of the categories of digital twin value: product development, production management and performance.
Digital Twin Product
Whether conceiving, designing or refining a product concept, the digital twin can assist in several ways:
- Rapid development of machine concept and design
The digital twin can streamline the management of requirements, help designers to develop early machine architectures and simulate performance to virtually evaluate mechatronic systems. It makes it easy to automate configuration and engineering for rapid concept development, and early concept design. And it offers visualization and verification of machine configurations.
This is achieved by establishing a digital thread that connects people and processes across functional silos. Product data, process data, designs, electronics, specifications, embedded software, documentation and bills of materials are brought into a common information store. As a result, the overall concept can be accurately evaluated and refined. Simulations of the digital twin enable engineers to review the product concept to determine how it will impact operating processes. They can then model a variety of adjustments to the product to see which approach, speed or concept is ideal.
- End-to-end project and program management
Harnessing a digital twin is the best way to execute a product plan, heighten supply chain collaboration, monitor and control costs intelligently, and provide reporting that offer actionable insights backed up by real-time analytics. A timeline can be created of the design, its product schedule, any needed changes to structure and project deliverables. On the costing side, built-in cost management tools can provide a costing estimate directly based on the product’s mechanical structure long before a prototype exists.
- Multi-CAD mechanical and electrical design collaboration
The digital twin makes it possible to combine multi-CAD design collaboration and mechanical engineering of subsystems into a single view. This includes the development and management of electrical-mechanical systems, as well as full concept design simulation to evaluate and test small changes to the matured design. For example, the operation of the machine can be viewed in the digital twin to determine how these changes will affect the behavior and timing sequences of equipment and processes. The impact of design modifications can also be modelled to discover how they will influence noise levels and vibration.
- Meet complex challenges with leading-edge analysis tools
Complex engineering challenges have been a common problem to address during the prototype stage. Engineers would have to redesign and adjust prototypes until the most workable approach was discovered. Unfortunately, this added greatly to project timelines.
By utilizing leading-edge analysis tools, the digital twin eliminates months and even years in coming up with the best concept. The initial design can quickly be validated or revised. Engineering integrity can be verified. Not only does this greatly reduce the number of costly physical prototypes, 3D simulation supported by analysis can deliver innovation much more rapidly and with greater confidence to customers.
Digital Twin Production
Once the virtual product is finalized, it is time to put it into production. The digital twin adds value here, too, in terms of specification, commissioning, production automation and final delivery of the physical product. A feedback loop, courtesy of the digital thread, provides engineers with validation and verification to the overall product concept.
As the product has been developed within an integrated digital project framework, production tasks can be automated easily, PLC programs can leverage standard libraries, and safety features can be configured seamlessly. The digital twin facilitates the discovery and resolution of system faults and production automation issues. Additionally, it helps to increase machine throughput, and support equipment with comprehensive security. Speed to market benefits through execution of mechanical and automation engineering in parallel.
Digital Twin Performance
Another aspect of the digital twin is its value in equipment and system performance. The digital twin can be used effectively to monitor equipment and institute predictive maintenance. The behavior of any machine or subcomponent can be viewed in the digital twin in real time. The information gathered can be used to optimize asset utilization, improve uptime and raise availability. Analytics can monitor actual performance against KPIs to offer operators insight, as well as suggestions on how to increase productivity. Operators can also combine asset monitoring and analysis data to introduce new machine capabilities.
The digital twin brings any concept to life virtually. It makes it possible to design equipment and systems faster and with more certainty than ever before. Virtual monitoring opens the door to perfect operation as well as proactive maintenance and troubleshooting. Persuasive proposals for new customers can be assembled in a short time that give customers the confidence to go ahead.
During the design stage, the mechanical, electrical and automation disciplines can be integrated before a machine is ever built. The real behavior of equipment can be simulated to fine tune the concept. The result is improved quality, reduced time to market, lower time to commissioning, far greater flexibility, reduced costs and lowered risk.
The ongoing individualization of products leads to continuously increasing requirements for productivity and flexibility of production. To meet these requirements, Siemens unique Digital Enterprise solution portfolio merges the virtual with the real world, enabling companies of all sizes and from all industries to produce faster, more flexible, better, and more secure.
For more information on using the digital twin in machine building, view this YouTube video.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>