How Digital Twins Will Transform Manufacturing

Digital twins can help manufacturers and entire enterprises maximize operational performance.

By Brad Hart, Chief Technology Officer of version control at Perforce  

Digital twins’ ability to reduce costs, improve business process efficiency, and maximize operational performance is rapidly sparking interest and growing its usage. Any industry that manufactures items is well-positioned to introduce digital twins into workflows to turn data into decisions and accelerate innovation. The digital replica mirrors real component’s status, functionality and interactions with other devices, a technological advancement that allows teams to manage and scale projects, iteration after iteration. Emerging alongside the digital technology is the metaverse—a platform where people can shop, work, game, and play. Not to be ignored when it comes to manufacturing and the enterprise.  

This article will explore the potential ways teams can use digital twins in the metaverse, the challenges of virtual models, and their future use cases.  

The Intersection of Digital Twins and the Metaverse 

The metaverse is a virtually simulated reality. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two ways to access the metaverse. To participate, individuals create an avatar in the metaverse and go about life as they would in the real world, albeit in a virtual setting. The appeal of the metaverse is that it accurately imitates aspects of the physical world by bringing real environments into the virtual world. Similar to what the metaverse does, digital twins are a digital representation of something in the real world, like a vehicle or an airplane. By creating a digital twin in the metaverse, engineers can go beyond the authentic visual and real-world experience that digital twin testing provides for a more immersive view of a project’s capabilities and output.  

Through VR and AR, digital twins provide real-world experiences that interact with complex objects and designs. The metaverse can combine these models while sharing real-time data and complex mappings for different environments, like cities or manufacturing floors, to show engineers how their designs will look and feel in the physical world. For example, imagine an engineer designing a new water pump system to supply water to a town center. Leveraging a digital twin to create the pump, the engineer can design a metaverse representing the town center, complete with restrooms, hotels, and restaurants. From there, they can introduce avatars into the metaverse’s town center to test the different pump systems. By doing so, the engineer generates accurate pump demand data that they can analyze to determine the required flow rates the pump system can handle. Engineers acquire all the same data they would if they conducted the test in the real world, but it can be done much more efficiently and cost-effectively in the metaverse’s virtual setting. Additionally, mechanical technicians can use AR glasses to view updated models of a machine. The technician can directly see the updated model on top of the machine they’re developing, allowing them to make updates with the right specs in the right places.  

Understanding its physical constraints and performance requirements is key to any good design. Digital twins of designs allow for much faster design testing cycles, earlier in the development lifecycle and with more agility given the virtual prototyping. It also decreases the time spent testing new products or product updates. Instead of conducting the trial-and-error process with a physical entity, like a vehicle, digital twins allow manufacturers to test updates on their virtual counterparts, thus decreasing the cost and time for testing while also improving quality by allowing for more iterations. For manufacturers, this can greatly decrease the time to production for all projects, no matter the size. 

Common Challenges with Digital Modeling 

Digital twin technology has long served as a vital tool to inform companies how products work and how they’ll perform in the future. However, teams have struggled to determine the best way to display this information in a visually engaging way. That’s where game engine technology comes into play. Today’s best digital twins are built using modern game engine technology, providing physical and visual interactivity and modeling. Initially designed to speed up game development, these rendering software tools let creators visualize data, products and processes.  

The Internet of things (IoT) and connected devices are often used to collect data on different assets in manufacturing facilities. These can be combined to enhance digital twins and improve communication between teams. However, security is another major challenge for a digital twin’s IoT development at scale. Companies must protect their data throughout the creation process, and the data acquired following the product’s launch. 

A Digital Twins Future   

Digital twins are becoming increasingly popular in the manufacturing and enterprise spaces. A compelling example of the technology’s versatility is the use of game engines. Game engines are not just for video game design and virtual production. Automotive manufacturers have found game engine technology especially helpful in designing and testing a product. This technology has visualization capabilities that allow manufacturers and enterprises to revolutionize the development process of any physical or virtual system by enabling developers, and even company executives or marketers, to see how changes could impact the final product and analyze elements through realistic models.  

Digital twins can dramatically reduce test cycle iterations by simulating environment and system test scenarios in a fraction of the time and cost of physical tests allowing for much faster iteration. They also increase product and equipment efficiency and improve quality with enhanced prototype testing, thus putting manufacturers in a position of control in their factories and with their products and designs. As we look ahead to the future, we expect this technology to gain even more widespread usage and anticipate seeing entirely new ecosystems emerge.  

Brad Hart is the chief technology officer, version control software at Perforce. He has more than 20 years of high-tech experience, helping large organizations solve their toughest development challenges. At Perforce, Brad is responsible for the product strategy of the version control product suite.

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