The digital twin technology (the creation of a digital copy of a device, system, process or person) is fast emerging as the norm in innovation space. Of course, there is nothing new about considering and manipulating a virtual replica of a physical entity or process, the rapid access to vastly improved computational power in recent years is now paving the way for this technology to accelerate development, whittle down production and maintenance costs, and generate safer outcomes.
The digital twin technology paves the way for building visual models that allow all disciplines in a machine development process. The good thing about this technology is that multiple teams instead of having to work off of a 2D image or line code, can see the full picture and can have a good discussion, which effectively means that for the first time, agile development is possible with hardware.
Such a technology can bring in multiple benefits. For instance, multiple virtual models can be built, and in parallel. In fact, the expenses of building prototypes are reduced, as fewer are typically needed. Further, predictive maintenance – being able to model a production system and thus being able to preempt system breaks – also saves costs.
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There is little doubt that the digital twin technology will witness widespread adoption, especially by start-ups going forward. Even smaller companies who did not have the capital in the past to adopting this technology are embracing it. There is a general feeling that it is much easier for startups to leverage this technology than bigger companies simply because they do not have the heritage, legacy, and can do it as greenfields.
It is important to understand that since machine learning and artificial intelligence are woven into most aspects of development, the digital twin technology will be a key element. The digital twin can be used as fuel for machine learning; the digital twin can be used as the system that creates the data. So, you do not need a larger data set when you start; you can create the data and you can do it cheaply, opined an industry expert.
The digital twin technology offers huge benefits in autonomous vehicle space. This technology enables optimisation of mechatronic systems, leveraging the autonomous driving technology as an example. Further, the technology is aiding the design and engineering of the product (mechanics, electronics, software) as well as the design of the manufacturing plant and the process to manufacture the product, and the modelling of performance during the lifetime. It also makes it possible to couple back throughout the lifetime of the product, in order to improve design, manufacturing and use.
In mechatronics space, autonomous driving is an application in which the value of digital twin technology is obvious. As far as the development process is concerned, there is unanimity among the fraternity that there is no other way than digitalising the vehicle and the environment.
However, there is a challenge of in ensuring more thorough standardisation across processes in facilitating a smoother development processes in coming years. This process is highly complex as building up an entire vehicle, means bringing together models from different departments using different technologies – say bringing different digital twin “children” into a single-vehicle environment. Given this there is a strong need for standardisation and clearly-defined interfaces.