What Are Digital Twins and How Do They Affect the Manufacturing Industry?

26 Sep, 2022
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What Are Digital Twins

As technology continues to evolve, the physical and digital world becomes more intertwined with every passing day – and digital twins are proof of how this connection is reshaping every industry.

When did the concept of the digital twin originate?

Digital twinning is a concept originally developed in the early 1990s and made popular by American computer scientist David Gelernter with the publication of his book Mirror Worlds. But it was only in 2002 that Dr. Michael Grieves announced the first digital twin software, thus allowing the application of digital twinning technologies to the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

While the digital twin technology is still in its infancy, it has already become an essential tool in most industries, including construction, manufacturing, and supply chain management. What’s more, its potential has been growing exponentially since the first introduction of basic twinning systems used by NASA in the 1960s for space programming.

But what is digital twin technology? And how are these new systems transforming the entire manufacturing industry? Let’s dive into what makes digital twinning technology so revolutionary with this guide by the product authentication experts at Authena.

What Are Digital Twins?

While there is no standard digital twins definition, this technology has been defined as the virtual representation of a physical object existing in the digital world. Unlike traditional simulations, these virtual representations are dynamic, spanning across the object’s lifecycle, and allow the exchange of real-time data with the underlying physical asset.

Digital twins employ a wide range of technologies, including machine learning, simulation, virtual reality, reasoning, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning.

What Is a Digital Twin Example?

Real-life examples of digital twins vary greatly depending on the industry this technology is applied to. For example, in the automotive industry, digital twins are changing how new cars are designed, tested, and built.

For example, manufacturers such as Ford use digital twins to create a virtual representation of a new car model, which allows them to optimize the safety and efficiency of each vehicle without having to invest in multiple costly physical prototypes.

What Are the Types of Digital Twins?

Digital twins used in the manufacturing industry are usually subdivided into three categories: product, production, and performance. When the different kinds of digital twins are combined or integrated, manufacturers can obtain an uninterrupted virtual representation of their entire operations, supply chain, and product life cycle.

Some common digital twins belonging to the categories above include:

  • Digital twins of parts or components
  • Twins of asses (which are two or more parts working together)
  • Digital twins of a system
  • Digital systems of processes and frameworks

Is Digital Twin Free?

Digital twins vary in terms of accessibility and price depending on what they are created for. For example, platforms as a service (PaaS) such as Azure Digital Twins allow you to create digital environments on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Oppositely, major companies creating digital twins and environments on demand can charge from $1.2 to $4.2 million for projects involving the creation of digital twins for large buildings and infrastructures.

Why Are Digital Twins Important?

According to recent statistics, the digital twin industry was valued at $6.7 billion in 2021 and $8.8 billion in 2022. What’s more, the global digital twin sector is expected to continue growing at a whopping CAGR of 40.6% over the next 7 years and reach an international value of nearly $100 billion by 2029.

The reason for this unprecedented growth is the increasing importance of digital twins across several industries and niches, including:

  • The construction of physically large structures such as bridges
  • The construction of mechanically complex projects, including automobiles and aircraft
  • The design and construction of power and dangerous equipment
  • Boosting waste reduction, safety, and efficiency across the supply chain

Just some of the industries that have adopted digital twinning technologies include automobile and aircraft manufacturing, building and construction, and power utilities.

How Does a Digital Twin Work?

The behind digital twin concept is a straightforward one. However, because of the several technologies employed to bring to life digital twins, these systems can be complex to understand.

At their core, digital twins work by creating a virtual, interactive model of a physical object.

In the case of an existing object or process that is evaluated through digital twins, sensors and other technologies such as IoT and blockchain send information back and forth.

For example, in the case of a digital twin of a product navigating the supply chain, manufacturers can implement smart packaging solutions and blockchain systems to track the product’s journey to the end user by tracking its digital twin.

Some of the data exchanged between the digital twin and the underlying physical object include location, performance, energy output, weather conditions, temperature, and status.

Once a virtual representation of a product is created, this can be used to run simulations and tests to boost efficiency, safety, and quality.

What Is Digital Twin Software?

Simply, digital twins software refers to the tool necessary to create and manage an object’s virtual representation. This software often integrates a wide range of technologies including the Internet of Things and sensor data.

What Technology Does Digital Twin Use?

To be as efficient as they are today, digital twins require the combination of a range of technologies. These include the following ones:

  • CAD
  • 3D modeling tools
  • Sensor data
  • IoT devices
  • Connected devices
  • Game engines
  • Version control
  • The Metaverse
  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • NFTs

Digital twins also rely on blockchain-based systems to record information about an asset and guarantee the authenticity of the information collected and stored.

What Technology Does Digital Twin Use

The Benefits of Digital Twins

When looking at the digital twin benefits, it is possible to see that this technology is having a positive impact on several aspects of the manufacturing industry and the supply chain as a whole.

Some of the benefits of introducing digital twinning technologies within your company include:

  • Improved research, design, and development of new products and services
  • Improved product performance and outcomes
  • Greater process efficiency and productivity
  • Reduction of waste of essential business resources
  • Increased supply chain visibility and more efficient unit-level traceability
  • Reduced risk of counterfeit and adulterations
  • Boosting the efficiency of a product throughout its lifecycle
  • Increasing product safety
  • Accessing a larger amount of data about a product’s journey to the end user and customer information

How Do You Create a Digital Twin?

Digital twins are the exact replica of a physical asset or process, and they can be as complex to create as the underlying access they are associated with.

That is why, if you are looking to integrate digital twinning technologies within your business, you should always partner with a specialized company such as Authena.

But how are digital twins created?

These dynamic virtual infrastructures are built following a 3-step process:

  • Design (or what should the digital twin represent)
  • Operation of the digital twin (or the information about the underlying asset you wish to obtain)
  • Development

When introducing digital twins within your company, you are likely to start small, possibly by creating a digital twin of a product, part, or component. You can then continue to develop your project by creating companies of other components or processes. By following this strategy, you can continue adding functionalities to your digital twin knowing that you are doing so on a reliable, sound, and safe infrastructure.

What Are Digital Twins Used For?

Use cases for digital twins are multiplying as this technology grows and develops.

However, currently, this technology is making a major impact across several industries through the following applications:

  • The establishment of a real-time traceability system that is able to follow the path of products along the entire supply chain, even at the level of single units.
  • The construction and management of power generation equipment such as turbines, locomotive engines, and jet engines
  • The design and development of large structures and their internal systems, such as large buildings and their HVAC or electrical systems
  • The management and development of all stages of the manufacturing process
  • The management of patients in the healthcare system and the tracking of health indicators
  • The design and development of complex mechanical and electrical systems that engage a range of co-functioning technologies (such as vehicles).

Digital twins can also be used to mirror physical environments such as neighborhoods and cities thus helping with smart urban planning.

What Are Digital Twins Used For

Which Company Is Using Digital Twins?

Leading companies in the automotive, agricultural, healthcare, FMCG, and aviation industries are now taking advantage of digital twins and their benefits.

Technologies such as Authena L1VE™ help companies introduce digital twinning systems that are created specifically to meet the specific real-time monitoring and traceability needs of each company.

What Is a Digital Twin in AI?

Digital twins are often paired with AI. This combination of technologies allows manufacturers to capture an unprecedented amount of data about their systems and processes, and evaluate the information collected without investing in additional human resources.

What’s more, utilizing Artificial Intelligence to evaluate the data collected can eliminate human error and ensure that managers can make better operational decisions based on accurate, real-time insights.

What Is Digital Twin Technology in the Supply Chain?

Digital twin technology is drastically transforming the supply chain.

As the global manufacturing and distribution network continues to expand, new risks arise for both manufacturers and consumers. Indeed, a more complex and far-reaching supply chain can become vulnerable to inefficiencies, counterfeit, and fraudulent activities.

By creating a digital twin of the supply chain, manufacturers are able to gain visibility into each step of the product’s journey to the end user. What’s more, when combining digital twins of connected devices, manufacturers can deliver accurate product information to consumers, who can then benefit from unparalleled transparency levels.

Ultimately, end-to-end tracking systems based on digital twinning technologies, such as Authena L1VE™, are essential business tools to increase efficiency, boost profitability, and safeguard consumer trust.

How Can the Use of Digital Twins Help To Improve Performance in Supply Chains?

Using digital twins in the supply chain offers many benefits. These include:

  • Improving the design of manufacturing systems and processes
  • Boosting the efficiency of the entire supply chain
  • Identifying weaknesses, areas of low productivity, and vulnerabilities
  • Increasing the visibility into complex and layered systems
  • Streamlined product testing
  • Monitoring the functioning of machinery and tracking maintenance schedules
  • Making asset lifecycle management more effective

How Can the Use of Digital Twins Help

How Digital Twins Are Affecting the Manufacturing Industry

Digital twins are now an essential technology used in several industries, including the following ones.

Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry has been consistently expanding over the past years to meet increased customer demand, and it has developed even further during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But this growth has also made it challenging for manufacturers to track their products and ensure viability and safety.

Using digital twins, the manufacturers and distributors of medicines, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals can prevent counterfeit and fraudulent activity such as smuggling and illegal refills. This can reduce the chances of costly recalls and catastrophic public health scandals.

Learn more about the benefits of using digital twins in the pharma industry at Authena.

Cosmetics Industry

The cosmetic industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors worldwide. By using digital twins, manufacturers of fragrances, perfumes, skincare, and makeup can ensure unprecedented levels of transparency to their users and monitor the status of each product through the supply chain.

What’s more, digital twins, when paired with blockchain systems and IoT, can guarantee the authenticity of perfumes and cosmetics, thus helping consumers make better-informed decisions and protecting manufacturers from the risk of fraud-related financial losses.

Luxury Products Industry

Consumers shopping for luxury products expect a high level of transparency and guarantees of authenticity – which is something that manufacturers are not always able to provide. Indeed, as the supply chain expands, it can be more difficult to maintain visibility into the supply chain and guarantee the same standards of quality and authenticity to every customer.

Luckily, digital twins can help. Thanks to user-friendly interfaces, both consumers and manufacturers can track and trace a digital twin paired with an underlying luxury product in real-time. This gives them access to all the necessary information about that product’s manufacturing, processing, and transportation.

Automotive Industry

Cars rely on a wide range of co-existing systems to function. Without simulations and digital twinning technologies, manufacturers would have to create several prototypes of each part, component, and process to evaluate the end product’s performance.

Thanks to virtual representation, this use of resources is no longer necessary. Today, manufacturers in the automotive and aviation industries can create digital twins of parts, run tests and simulations, and ensure the efficiency and safety of the end product.

Sports Memorabilia

Collecting sports memorabilia is much more than a hobby. Indeed, similarly to fine arts, sports memorabilia can be considered a valid alternative asset class with a low correlation to other assets such as stocks and shares. This means that, for many, investing in sports memorabilia might be the ultimate safety net to survive a stock market crash.

However, with the advent of platforms such as eBay, it has become all the more complicated to verify the authenticity of a certain item.

Creating digital twins and NFTs of sports memorabilia can help owners, buyers, and sellers of these items authenticate and evaluate their assets in real-time.

Partnering With a Product Authentication Expert

Introducing digital twinning technologies is essential for any manufacturing company wishing to remain competitive and efficient in years to come. However, each company is unique, and no two systems will work equally well for two different organizations.

That is why, when looking to implement digital twinning technologies, you should partner with a specialized company such as Authena, which can help you introduce an end-to-end product authentication and traceability system tailored to your unique needs.

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