In April 1970, after the explosion of one of its oxygen tanks, the nation was glued to the television watching the disaster of the Apollo 13 mission unfold. To fix the broken component, the engineers modeled a solution on the ground using only the physical components that the astronauts in the distressed capsule had available. In effect, the scientists constructed a twin of the broken component and tested various creative solutions on Earth before successfully applying the solution to the actual capsule in space. While there was nothing digital about the creative solution, this scenario was in some ways the precursor to the concept of digital twinning.
Gartner named digital twinning as one of the top 10 new technologies of 2018 and predicted that by 2021 half of the large industrial companies will use digital twins.
What is it?
A digital twin is the virtual representation of a physical asset and includes the real-world object’s data structure, metadata and critical variables. In other words, the physical object is mapped to a digital platform. The twin then uses data from sensors on the physical asset to analyze its efficiency, condition and real-time status.
How is it used?
You can use the digital twin to query the state of the real-world object or receive notifications in coarse or granular detail. Skilled technicians and operators can combine their expertise to analyze how the real-world machine performs and interacts with its environment by using the predictive power of simulating real-world conditions on a digital model. This means digital twins are able to predict breakages before they happen allowing human operators to order replacement parts and reduce the downtime caused by broken machinery. They allow manufacturers to edit a prototype through the production process reducing time and costs of the final construction. Ultimately, scientists can interact with the twin and evaluate “what if” scenarios like the NASA scientists did in 1970 to save the lives of the astronauts stranded in an orbit around the moon.
Our next blog will discuss some real-world examples of digital twin technology.