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?

This is a guest blog written by Jonathan Lang from PTC – you can find the original blog post on PTC.com.

While augmented reality (AR) and computer vision technology are making it possible to wear digital clothing, the concept of a digital thread offers a powerful new framework to unlock data accessibility and add new analytical and decision-making capabilities to your business.

The digital thread is proven to drive speed, agility, and efficiency in the products, operational processes, and related worker tasks.

Let’s take a look at how:

What is a digital thread?

Digital threads seek to create homogeneity and simple universal access to data. They follow a single set of related data as it weaves in and out of business processes and functions to create continuity and accessibility.

A digital thread can be created for many different entities and processes. Most commonly, a thread of a product follows the lifecycle from design inception through engineering and product lifecycle management, to manufacturing instructions, supply chain management, and through to service histories and customer events.

This thread enables enterprises to anticipate and effectively communicate bi-directionally up and down stream of where the product is in its lifecycle, ensuring all participants utilize the most current data and can react quickly to changes or new insights.

Similar threads are emerging for entire operational environments and processes – and even worker tasks and workflows – due to the prevalence of digitization across the value chain driven by technologies like IIoT, AR, MES, and others.

Why do I need a digital thread?

Data discovery accounts for a lot of workers’ time. Integration of disparate information systems in retrospect is costly and jeopardizes goals, deadlines, and market opportunities. A 2018 study by IDC of more than 400 professionals who work with data found that 37% of the time they spent ‘getting to insight’ was searching for information, while only 27% was used for analysis.

In the age of digital transformation, new data challenges have emerged, and digital threads offer a solution to improve the speed and agility of enhanced decision-making promised by all of this data. They’re about removing bottlenecks and improving transparency and accuracy of critical business information across the value chain.

How do digital threads enable digital twins?

While there are benefits to this continuity across related data sets and activities, the advanced versions incorporate physical world sensor data through IIoT capabilities or through the use of physics-based ‘virtual sensors’. Utilizing these physical world proxies of products, processes, and even people and their workflows, AI algorithms can test potential scenarios to find optimization opportunities for a variety of outcomes.

When a digital thread or ‘definition’ of a product or process is applied to a 2D or 3D graphical proxy and real-world data is modeled against it, this is referred to as a digital twin. Digital twin use cases include predictive maintenance and service for products and operational intelligence across an industrial environment.

To achieve a digital twin, a digital thread must first be established. Digital thread is predominantly used to unify and orchestrate data across the lifecycle of a product, from original design, to engineering, manufacturing, operation, and service. This enables product manufacturers to analyze a holistic data set, and ensures that functions across the organization are always working with the most up-to-date information.

With the widespread adoption of IIoT technology, connected worker technology like augmented reality, and increasingly sophisticated MES and supply chain networks, digital threads are quickly expanding beyond products to be the connective tissue enabling operational insights. Woven together into a holistic view of an enterprise across many interrelated processes and functions, the relationship between multiple digital threads is referred to as a digital fabric or mesh.

Even today, digital mesh is forming all around us and will be the foundation upon which we architect and orchestrate digital experiences in the physical world in the future.

To learn more about digital twins, read our blog on how digital twins improve future innovation and product development.

How digital twins improve future innovation and product development | EAC Product Development Solutions

Remember in 1977 when Ken Olson, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation said, “there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”? Boy was he wrong. Not even a leader in the technology industry could predict how quickly our usage of technology would change.

If you don’t make an effort to keep up with the fast pace of technology; you will fall behind. It’s critical that you proactively embrace and move towards digital processes to ensure that future products better meet the needs of customers.  

What better way to keep up with the future than making highly accurate product performance and behavior predictions with the right design tools? 

PTC developed a Creo extension called Creo Product Insight. It lets designers and engineers incorporate the latest sensor technology into their designs.

What is Creo Product Insight?

Creo Product Insight captures and analyzes product data from live sensors on prototypes and products directly within your CAD model. This tool produces a digital twin, an exact replica of a physical prototype in a virtual CAD model, to mirror the performance of a product under real-world conditions.  

How does it work? You add digital sensors from a library directly into your CAD models in Creo. Then you connect them to the data streams from physical products. Whether you’re looking to get more value out of your prototypes, design smart connected products, or use data to improve the quality of existing products, the Creo Product Insight Extension allows you to design smarter. 

So how are organizations keeping up with the digital transformation with the Creo Product Insight Extension?

Improving New Product Design

When you’re improving new product design you’re most likely basing your design decision on assumptions and historical data. This puts you in a difficult spot because you may not have up-to-date-information which may cause inaccurate solutions and error-prone results. 

Creo Product Insight Extension | EAC Product Development Solutions
Sensor data from CAD model shown in picture above

Creo Product Insight allows you to validate design assumptions using real-world data from the field directly in Creo’s simulation and analysis tools. Using this extension also decreases your reliance on building prototypes because it gives you live product performance and behavior. 

Improving Existing and Next-Generation Product Designs 

The absence of real-world product data stunts the optimization of current and future products. If you had access to real-world data, you would be able to validate design criteria against customer usage data and mitigate risk of product failure, warranty, repair, and liability. 

With Creo Product Insight and ThingWorx you can analyze field data and provide meaningful information back to engineering. Using real-world data allows you to identify opportunities for new products in the market and understand over and under engineered designs to reduce product life cycle costs. 

Improving Smart Connected Product Design 

The lack of specialized tools that support smart connected products puts you at risk of falling behind the digital transformation process. When sensors and a strategy to capture real-live data are disconnected from your design process there is no way to deliver the value that your customers deserve out of their products.  

Creo Product Insight gives you the ability to optimize sensor replacements, choose a sensor type, and validate data capture requirement during the design process. The extension creates an integrated design process that delivers optimal value from smart connected products.  

Creo Product Insight Digital Twin | EAC Product Development Solutions
Digital Twins bring value to design engineers by showing one twin’s real-world data synced into its other twin’s CAD model datatracking product performance along the way

Creo Product Insight Capabilities and Benefits

Capabilities:

  • Reuse and instrument released designs
  • Embed sensors into new designs
  • Connect CAD models via digital twins to real-world data
  • Use real-world sensor data in CAD design
  • Integration with ThingWorx, the world’s leading industrial IoT platform
  • Prepare for Product as a Service

Benefits

  • Eliminate manual workflows to use real-world sensor data in design
  • Optimize products to real-world conditions
  • Ensure that future products better meet the needs of customers
  • Creo analyses outside of the design office
  • Decrease reliance on physical prototyping

Creo Product Insight Licensing and Creo Version Capabilities

The Creo Product Insight is an add-on extension that is available for subscription licensing only. You do not need ThingWorx to use this extension – although using ThingWorx with it will fully optimize your results.

“Physical” Sensors – Creo 4 (M020):

  • Easily define and place ‘measure’ sensors by adding physical sensors to Creo Assemblies
  • New Instrumented sub-type to protect reused/released design data
  • Associated parameter and input definitions and associated calculations
  • Define (physical) calculating sensors (M020) to report analysis results (center of gravity, mass, area, etc.)

UX Sensors – Creo 4 (M030 & M040):

  • Connection to ThingWorx to support reporting analyses results (M040)
  • Run Creo analysis using Behavioral Modeling, Simulation, and Mechanism Dynamics (M040)
  • Read real-world data from ThingWorx (or CSV data file) and use input variables to run analyses and report results back to data tables

“Virtual” Sensors – Creo 4 (M050):

  • Specialized Virtual sensor handling – (excluded from BOM, meshing, and graphics)
  • Directly connect and read sensor data from file or ThingWorx
  • Use real-world sensor data to drive simulations
  • Creo as a Service from ThingWorx (M050)
  • Save/Export analysis results together with input values back to data file

Get live data from CAD models

Download the Creo Product Insight datasheet or watch this webinar replay to learn more and see if your organization could benefit from collecting live data directly within your CAD models. I’m willing to bet it can.