I have a twin! Well, I have a digital twin. You probably do too. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a digital twin, don’t fret—you’re not alone. In fact, this technology is relatively new and still developing.

The idea of creating virtual models to simulate real-life situations isn’t new. NASA uses digital twins to run simulations and test flights on airplanes before they’re actually flown by pilots in person or sent into space with astronauts aboard them (pretty cool right?). However, until now there hasn’t been much focus on how we could apply these same concepts outside the aerospace industry — until now that is…

The idea of a digital twin is simple to understand. A digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product, or service that can be used to:

    • Improve performance: Understand how a process works, and improve it.
    • Explore new ideas: Imagine what could happen in the future, and create it now.
    • Make better decisions: See what’s happening on the ground in real time, so you can make confident decisions for your business.
    • Reduce risk: Identify potential problems before they occur and fix them before they cause issues for customers or colleagues.
    • Improve efficiency: Maximize resources to get more out of them than would be possible otherwise – whether that’s staff time, materials or energy consumption – by turning data into insights for everyone involved in a system (including those who aren’t currently involved).

     

Digital twins are used to run simulations using predictive analytics and data from sensors that are attached to airplanes and engines. These “test flights” for engines and airplanes allow for safe experimentation and troubleshooting without risking human life or harming the equipment. More recently however, the potential use cases for digital twins have expanded beyond industry.

NASA’s journey with the digital twin

NASA’s Advanced Turbine Systems Project (ATSP) has created a digital twin of their Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engine used in aviation systems like Boeing’s 737 MAX series aircrafts. This makes it possible for engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio to monitor real world conditions on an airplane remotely via computer software without having any physical connection between themselves and the airplane itself – all from their office desktops!

Digital twins aren’t limited just to planes though – they can be applied anywhere where there is an application that would benefit from being able to predict future outcomes based off current data gathered through sensors placed around said device/application/process etc…

Today, digital twins are being used in healthcare to help monitor a patient’s health in real time. Augmented Reality (AR), simulated environments, and virtual reality (VR) can all be used with the data provided by digital twins to improve patient outcomes. For instance, AR could be used by surgeons during an operation or VR can be used by physicians to practice risky procedures in a simulated environment before they operate on an actual patient.

The list of potential uses for a digital twin is seemingly endless, but one thing they all have in common is their ability to collect data. For example, an AR system could be used by surgeons to visualize a patient’s anatomy in real time and allow for better planning of surgical procedures.

Virtual reality (VR) can be used by physicians to practice risky procedures in a simulated environment before they operate on an actual patient. The benefits of this approach include the reduction or elimination of unnecessary risks during surgery as well as the reduction or elimination of costs associated with conducting unnecessary surgeries that did not need to take place because the physicians were not sufficiently trained prior to operating on real patients (which can lead to malpractice lawsuits).

The idea behind digital twins goes beyond the practical uses of this technology—it is rooted in the desire to create a more connected world where people’s decisions can be made with better information than what has been available in the past. When we’re able to see how our choices impact different systems—for example, seeing how changing one variable will affect overall energy consumption—we gain better insight into how we can create a more sustainable future.

As you may have heard, a digital twin is an avatar that represents your physical system. It’s kind of like an actor who plays the role of “you” in the virtual world and learns how to be more efficient, safer, and easier to use over time. This concept can be applied across systems ranging from trains to buildings to entire cities. Since all systems are made up of parts that must work together in order for a system as a whole to function properly (think about how many things need to go right just so you can take a shower), it makes sense that we’d want an accurate representation of those parts—and their interactions—in order for us humans running them not to make mistakes or waste energy unnecessarily.

As we’ve seen in this post, digital twins can be used for many different purposes. The technology has already been applied to industrial processes, healthcare, and the energy sector. In the future, we’ll likely see more uses for digital twins in retail and other industries as well. What will your digital twin look like?

What’s the difference between a filament printer and the Form2 3dD Printer?

FDM 3D printers melt a plastic filament, whereas we use a liquid photopolymer resin which is cured with a UV laser.

How does the liquid photopolymer resin work?

The resin contains a photo initiator which when activated causes the short chain monomers and oligomers to bind together into long-chain polymers which causes the resin to solidify.

Why is using a liquid photopolymer resin better?

Since we’re not extruding a thick bead of hot plastic onto the build platform, we can achieve a much finer X/Y accuracy than with an FDM printer. Our curing process creates fully dense, isotropic parts with greater strength, smoothness, and detail.

What is your X/Y accuracy?

We have measured our X/Y accuracy to as fine as .002” or 0.050mm.

What is your minimum feature size?

We have a 150µm minimum feature size.

What is your layer thickness?

25, 50, 100 microns.

What is the laser spot size?

140 microns.

How much calibration does the Form 2 machine require?

Virtually none. We have a factory calibration rig that ensures that the printer is fully calibrated. You do not need to do any tray-leveling. The printer is ready to print within 10 minutes of unboxing.

How big can you print on the Form2 3D Printer?

Form 2 build volume is 145 mm x 145 mm x 175 mm.

What about finishing?

When a print is finished, there is a thin layer of uncured resin which needs to be washed off. When the print is complete, soak the part in a bath of isopropyl alcohol for about 15-20 minutes to wash off the uncured resin.

What maintenance does the Form 2 require?

The Form 2 requires very little maintenance. The calibration process is done at the factory. The resin tank is a consumable component which will eventually need to be replaced after about 2L of prints (and we are working towards improving this). The resin tank costs $60 US / 55 EUR to replace.

How many 3D prints can you get from the Form 2 with 1 Liter of resin?

Our standard rook uses about 11ml of resin, so you could get about 90 of them from 1L of resin.

What materials do you offer?

We have Standard Resins in Clear, Grey, Black, and White. Our Functional Resins cover a wide range of applications: Flexible, which is ideal for prototyping functional grips, seals, and soft robotics; Tough, a durable and impact-resistant material for sturdy engineering prototypes; Castable, a material for printing detailed jewelry models that can be burned out in investment casting; and Dental SG, a Class I Biocompatible material for printing surgical guides.

What is the shelf life of the resin for the Form 2 printer?

If stored within the cartridge, the resin has a shelf life of about a year, and if stored within the light-blocking resin tank it can be stored safely for about 2-3 months.

What do I do with the unused resin after I finish a print job?

Resin left in the tank after a print job should stay in the tank. It does not need to be poured back into the cartridge.

What’s the difference between laser SLA and DLP?

Laser SLA printing uses a round laser point to trace out the area to be solidified in each layer. DLP projects a single image of each layer, composed of rectangular pixels, in a flash of light. DLP pros: smaller minimum exposure size, faster prints DLP cons: build volume is constrained by x/y resolution; projector bulbs are consumable and need to be replaced; pixels lead to voxelization/aliasing error in x/y plane. Also, the Form 2 has a much smaller footprint than most DLP printers, and can fit more comfortably in most workspaces.

As PTC promised us, we have another annual Creo update – the latest version, Creo Parametric 6.0, brings us new capabilities in augmented reality (AR), real-time simulation, design for additive manufacturing (3D printing) as well as a number of productivity enhancements.

Cloud-based Augmented Reality

Creo AR Design Share allows all 3D CAD data to be exchanged through the cloud so that your IP is protected and you can access it at any time. And now every seat of Creo (and Windchill) gives you the power of cloud-based AR.

The new version of PTC Creo Parametric 6.0 provides design engineers the ability to publish up to ten AR designs, instead of only five AR designs that was available with the Creo 5.0. With enhanced security features, you can now control who can access each published AR experience.

AR is changing the way companies design across the enterprise.

Advanced Analysis with Creo Simulation Live

PTC and ANSYS have come together to deliver instantaneous, real-time simulation software. The analysis software is consistent with the Creo user interface – so it’s been easily integrated with the same PTC CAD software that you’re familiar with if you’ve used Creo CAD software.

All too often there are ramblings about project management being an overhead cost to avoid, along with a litany of reasons why that opinion is being shared. The reality is, project management occurs whether it is formalized or not. Without dedicated project management, processes become burdensome for those involved in the project, often distracting them from their actual role and efficient execution of their expertise. The result impedes success.  

Success can be defined in many ways – in the Project Management world the focus is on the accomplishment of an aim or purpose within the constraints of scope, time and cost. Overlooking any one of these constraints and the success of the project will be delayed or difficult to achieve. 

What does success look like?

One of the first questions that needs to be addressed when starting a project is, “What does success look like?”  
 
This is important to know for all people involved in a project – Executive sponsors, Managers, End Users, and those involved in maintaining the product once the project has been brought to life. Without this clear vision a project can end up with dissatisfied end users, delays caused by re-establishing intent (and potential for increased cost) or worst of all, the project gets cancelled.  

MAJOR STAKEHOLDERS

There are (2) primary stakeholders involved in a project: those delivering the project and those who benefit from the project. Their alignment is crucial and will require a representative (Project Manager) that will actively communicate internally within the organization during the project and provide the catalyst for collaboration with all participants. Without these representatives, single points of contact from each organization could make responsibility and accountability unclear, introducing additional risk to the project. 

MINOR STAKEHOLDERS

These are the resources that tackle the technical elements of the project. There is collaboration between those delivering and those benefitting from the project, and it is important they understand who to turn to in the event technical issues hinder or block their progress. Having a person serving in the role of Project Manager removes “management of the minutia” from the technical resources so they can focus on the tasks where their expertise can be applied to and benefit the project. As minor as this may seem, maintaining focus on what they do best helps maintain desired timelines and cost constraints and makes them easier to achieve.  

RISKS

Project Managers ask, “What are the risks”?”  

Every project has risk potential that needs to be identified and managed in a way that avoids or prepares for risks throughout the project. This is important to be managed by a single point of contact from each stakeholder to keep the risks clear, identify and log the implications for each risk, and develop contingency plans in the event they are unavoidable. One of the more common risks is the resources of those who gain the benefit of the project are also trying to maintain their daily activities. Sometimes communication is lacking on incoming project, giving project managers a short notice on project details. Those delivering the project then end up coordinating their effort around the daily business of those who benefit.  

MANAGING CONSTRAINTS

Scope, Time & Cost – the 3 constraints Project Management aims to fulfill. On the outside it seems simple right? The problem is these constraints conflict. If a short timeline is needed, that may require overtime or additional resources thereby driving up cost. If the scope is changed, that typically has an impact on timing, as well as cost. These need to be addressed with an objective eye toward the goal of providing a quality product that fulfills the needs of the end-users.  

Scope is the most common constraint that tends to change because of missing detail identification that wasn’t involved when the project budget was established. Project Management then needs to usher all of the resources involved to determine if the change is a necessity or just nice to have. If it is a necessity, finances and management will be engaged to coordinate a change request and communicate the implications. The goal is to re-establish expectations while keeping all the balls in the air to minimize impact on the remaining elements of the project.      

HERDING CATS?

Though this brief outline may be common circumstances of any project, each project differs and has a tendency to take their own path – making Project Management even more crucial. EAC has dedicated Program and Project Management in an effort to provide the foundation for success and build the partnership required to not only succeed in the short-term, but to assure strategic business initiatives are kept in sight with all projects existing and future. 

Repeatedly in life, you hear the phrase “practice what you preach.” A charge to show the world what you’re saying is true and viable. Well, that’s exactly what we did and continue to do here at EAC headquarters.

THE PROBLEM

EAC’s popcorn machine recently had a broken part rendering it difficult to produce popcorn that wasn’t blackened to a crisp. 

The Right Product Design Solution: Onshape

Our design engineers took one look at the problem and took action. Using PTC’s cloud-based Onshape, one engineer began the initial CAD design of the part off-site simultaneously as another designer was able to edit the part geometry on-site. This increased collaboration and excelled design iteration with updates in real-time.


With the initial design completed in Onshape, minor tweaks were made and work through versions 2 and 3 were finished in just a matter of days. The CAD file alone, however, was not going to fix the burnt popcorn issue – it was time for prototyping.

The Right Prototype Solution: Formlabs

Unfortunately, the original part had deteriorated over time which made it difficult to capture accurate measurements. Adjustments to the prototype would have to be made along the way to make sure that it fit just right.


Using our Formlabs 3D printers, the designers printed V1 and V2 on the Form 3+ printer due to the accuracy and speed in which they could turn around a prototype. Since our team wanted to test out their iterations quickly, they took advantage of the new and improved software and hardware offerings on this printer. The off-site designer was able to print the prototype after the on-site designer prepped the printer before leaving the office that same day. As a result they produced functional, high-quality prototypes and end-use parts in record time.


The prototype material used accelerated necessary edits, but was not used for the final product due to the level of heat it would take on sitting above the popcorn kettle. The final piece was printed with Nylon resin on the Fuse 1 printer. This new SLS printer not only sped up the production process, but allowed for long-lasting results using an incredibly durable material. It was time to install the ready-made part – our popcorn machine was going to pop again. 

THE FINAL PRODUCT

By using modern collaborative design tools in Onshape, our team was able to seamlessly work together remotely and also quickly iterate a quality design ready for prototyping. Formlabs’ connected printers with remote access, printing, and monitoring created an accurate and durable part that was ready to be put to use.

Together, the two solutions streamlined design, prototyping, and part production processes. Our design engineers saw a problem and practiced what they preach – filling the halls of EAC with the smell of fresh popcorn once again!

Formlabs is making their Tough resin even tougher – with a reformation  – offering Tough 2000 as the more advanced 3D printing material.

Formlabs and EAC will continue to sell the Tough resin until it is sold out – then it will be replaced with Tough 2000. If you’ve been using Tough resin – it will be available through the end of 2020.

You can use the Tough 2000 resin on Formlabs desktop stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers – specifically on the Form 3 and Form 2

Tough 2000 vs Tough

Compared to Tough Resin, this material reformulation brings:

  • Reduced brittle failures: Increased elongation by more than 100%.
  • Improved strength and stiffness: Increased flexural strength and flexural modulus by roughly 15%.
  • Better performance at elevated temperatures: Increased heat deflection temperature by roughly 25%.
  • Professional-looking parts: New grey color.

Tough 2000 Resin is the strongest and stiffest material in the functional family of Tough and Durable Resins, with “2000” representing the material’s tensile modulus. The resin is improved elongation, strength, and stiffness, which are typically competing mechanical properties.

Due to its high strength and modulus, Tough 2000 Resin can handle higher stress and will hold its shape better under load compared to Tough 1500 or Durable Resins. When pushed to its stress limit, Tough 2000 parts will bend significantly before ultimately breaking.

Note that Tough 2000 Resin requires specialty resin tanks, Form 2 LT Tank or Form 3 Tank v2.

Other Tough and Durable Resins

This video clip shows a stress test between the Tough 2000, Tough 1500, and Durable Formlabs resins.

Tough 1500 Resin is the most resilient material and is ideal for: prototypes that repeatedly bend and quickly return to shape; jigs and fixtures requiring repeated deflection; and simulating the strength and stiffness of polypropylene (PP).

Durable Resin is the most pliable, impact resistant, and lubricious material and is ideal for: squeezable prototypes and low friction assemblies; non-degrading surfaces as a result of repeated wear; jigs and fixtures that will experience significant impacts; and simulating the strength and stiffness of HD/LD polyethylene (PE).

When should I use Tough 2000 resin?

Tough 2000 Resin offers more advanced mechanical properties and a new dark grey look. It is ideal for:

  • Strong and stiff prototypes
  • Jigs and fixtures requiring minimal deflection
  • Simulating the strength and stiffness of ABS

Choose Tough 2000 Resin for prototyping strong and sturdy parts that should not bend easily, such as housings and enclosures, jigs and fixtures, mechanical connectors, and prototypes undergoing wear and tear.

You can use this resin with applications across engineering, product design, and manufacturing. Tough 2000 resin can be printed for prototypes undergoing wear and tear, mechanical connectors, and housing and enclosures such as the below motor mount.

The improved strength, stiffness, and elongation allow engineers and product designers to iterate with higher confidence and reduce brittle failures.

Download the Tough 2000 resin data sheet to read on material properties and tech stats.

This video clip shows a motor threading with the Tough 2000 resin.

Where to find Tough 2000 Resin

You can find Tough 2000 resin in our Formlabs Resin Library where you can either order a sample part or order the actual resin.

Here’s a collection of CAD files you can use with the Tough 2000 resin once you have it in your hands and ready for printing.