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Digital twins explained

Digital twins: We’ve all heard of them at some point, but do you really know what’s the technology behind it? What exactly is a digital twin, what are their use cases and how could digital twins benefit your company?

Digital twins: We’ve all heard of them at some point, but do you really know what’s the technology behind it? In 2018, Gartner conducted a survey about the use of digital twins from 599 organizations with annual revenue of more than 50 million dollars and a plan to deploy at least one-use case of IoT. Out of 599 participants from six countries, 13% stated that they already use digital twins. 62% reported that they’re either in the process of establishing it or planning to do so in the following year. Research shows: Digital twins are becoming more mainstream. But what exactly is a digital twin, what are their use cases and how could digital twins benefit your company?  


What is a digital twin?

Simply put, a digital twin is a digital representation of a physical product or system. It mirrors an object, process, or organization. The digital twin does not only show the current state of the product or system but starts with the creation and ends with the disposal of its twin – therefore shows you the entire lifecycle. It is updated from real-time data and uses things like simulation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to help with decision-making in the “real world”. The digital twin can help to identify problems early and can be used to analyze, simulate and control an asset from design to manufacturing, maintenance, and decommissioning. 


The history of digital twin technology

The beginnings of digital twin technology already started in 2000. In relation to product lifecycle management, Michael Grieves of the University of Michigan invented an early stage of the digital twin in 2002. His model contained three components: The real space, the virtual space, and a linking mechanism for the flow of data between the two. Grieves named the model “Mirrored Spaces Model”. Even though the model already contained today’s idea of the digital twin technology, in 2002 the further evolution of the model was not possible due to low computing power and low to no connection to the internet.


The difference between digital twins and simulations

Both simulations and digital twins use digital models of products and processes. But what is the difference between the two and why is the digital twin so much more innovative than a simulation? While a simulation mostly looks at one single process, a digital twin runs several simulations in order to look at multiple processes. At the same time, simulations have a “one-time” data input, while for digital twins the data flow is ongoing and in both directions. Summarized, digital twins have far more potential to help improve products and processes.


What are use-cases for digital twins?

One reason why digital twin technology is hard to grasp is that it has many different ways of use. From predictive maintenance for a factory, extended reality to see inside the walls for plumbing, urban planning of a smart city, virtual stress tests on products, especially cars, and many more the digital twin technology has only started to change the way we are working.  

Right now, the most use cases of digital twin technology happen in the following industries:  

  • Manufacturing 
  • Industrial IoT 
  • Healthcare 
  • Smart cities 
  • Automobile 
  • Retail 

The greatest advantage of digital twins right now is the capability to foresee problems at any stage of a product or process. Remember? The digital twin does not only show the current state but the whole lifecycle. Therefore, Digital Twins have a substantial influence on the design of products and their manufacturing and maintenance.


What could digital twins do for you?

What we can grasp from this article is that digital twins are a modern use of data management. They enable industrial companies to improve operational efficiency and innovate new products, services, and business models on top of their data. From the examples mentioned above, you might have already gotten some ideas on how you could make use of digital twins for your company.  

The Makersite digital twin is based on products and their supply chain, all the way upstream. Still, our integrated databases are what make our software special. Only they enable you to make informed decisions about your product by changing materials, and suppliers in our platform and seeing the outcome in your digital twin across categories such as cost, sustainability, compliance, and risk. This way, your product data, the live digital twin, and our integrated databases work together. 

Currently, the Makersite digital twin technology is heavily used in product engineering, design, procurement, and sustainability. Because you can look at the whole lifecycle of a product (or a product design) Makersite enables improvements from the first moments of designing a product. No need for experts or never-ending feedback rounds. Instead, the time to market for products is accelerated by 10%+.  

Still, this article was not written to praise our own digital twin solution – even though we’re quite proud of it – but instead to show the variety of digital twins’ uses in all kinds of industries and forms. 

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