Digital Twins

What are digital twins? An introduction to digital twin technology

As the term may suggest, digital twins are digital images of physical objects, such as industrial equipment and machines, vehicles, but also buildings and medical patients. The identical copy, called digital twin or digital twin model, offers a variety of opportunities in industrial applications that are advantageous for companies because they save enormous resources.

By using a digital twin concept, production processes can be optimized and problems such as autonomous driving detected and solved using existing data before they arise in physical reality at all.

The structure and function of a digital twin offer many advantages

But how exactly is such a digital twin created? It is created by recording data about the physical object to be imaged digitally and feeding it into the digital twin model. This is done with the aid of sensors. In this way, the digital twin can monitor the behavior of the original in real time and calculate the reaction in alternative scenarios, or even give forecasts as to how the object would behave in the future. Digital twins of automotive prototypes can be used to simulate minute detail changes to test the effects on aerodynamics or the manufacturing process.

It is also possible to simulate the impact of disasters such as earthquakes or floods on individual buildings and infrastructure in large cities. The possible applications of digital twins vary depending on the context of their use.

Digital twins in action: Industry 4.0 benefits enormously

In Industry 4.0, which strives for higher automation and data exchange in manufacturing, the digital twin infrastructure offers many advantages. They are used for preventive maintenance of machines and for process optimization where data from devices are analyzed. This can be used to determine when the next maintenance should be performed.

Through the digitization of the production line data are collected from all aspects of production, which enables monitoring of the production line.

In addition, a digital twin software can gather relevant information in real time to improve final manufacturing processes. Specific applications include, for example, the avoidance of machine failure during peak production times, or applications of autonomous driving.

Advantages of standardization: Asset Administration Shell (AAS)

The high practicality of the digital twin models makes them very popular, which is why an implementation standard has been developed, the so-called Asset Administration Shell (AAS). The technology-independent specification enables devices and products as well as processes to be modulated in the production line. The AAS enables real-time and dynamic monitoring and control of the state of a device via a unified interface. The AAS can be used in many different ways as it offers different sub-models that model different aspects of a device and each support a different application.

For example, the sub-model of the digital nameplate displays all relevant information, such as the next planned maintenance date or the safety documentation about the modeled device.

Such sub-model as the digital nameplate is also called “passive AAs” and has great practical use because it creates a digitized one-stop shop for all recordings of a device, which can then be accessed, for example, by scanning a QR code on the machine. The “active AAS” even transfers the changes directly to the underlying device.

Fraunhofer IKS: First steps for creating a digital twin

For interested companies, the first step is primarily to decide which aspects of the underlying device should be modeled for the planned use. This can be done either manually or programmatically, depending on the complexity of the model and the preferences of the team. Once this decision has been made, the infrastructure can be planned in the second step. Only then is it possible to write the code that interacts with the AAS and uses the collected data to then be used advantageously in production. Fraunhofer IKS can help with all these steps and support the creation and use of digital twins for the best possible results.


Industry 4.0

The Parallel World of Digital Twins

Digital twins are designed with the goal to create precise replicas of our physical world, but how exactly are they being used? For example, in medicine, vehicle construction and industrial production?


Industry 4.0:
Blog articles

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