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Accelerating Industry 4.0 with Digital Twin

By Elin Jensen, Ph.D., Lawrence Technological University, Ahad Ali, Ph. D., Lawrence Technological University, Robert Van Til, Ph. D., Oakland University and Ross Sanders, Lawrence Technological Universi

Manufacturing is on the verge of explosive growth in the use of digital twins, or a digital replica of a physical system, process or product. This technology, which allows users to experiment with a digital file before making changes in a physical environment, is already in use today in life sciences, aerospace, automotive, defense, mobility, manufacturing, energy and utilities. And the possibilities are only as limited as our imaginations.  

A manufacturer, for example, can create a digital model of their assembly process that incorporates key elements including staffing levels, equipment efficiency and inventory counts. This model can then be used to test proposed changes to that process before making the changes to physical process to ensure that the most optimal change is made. Surgeons can now study the human heart by creating a digital twin of the heart before performing the surgery thereby increasing successful outcomes. In the automotive industry, companies are using these simulations to gage performance of vehicles and recognize areas of failure and maintenance.

The adoption of digital twins has huge implications for manufacturers. A manufacturer’s workforce needs to acquire significant training and adopt new ways of thinking to operate in the world of the digital twin. Processes need to be integrated to optimize the use of digital twins, yet many manufacturer’s processes are fragmented. Digital twin technologies are rapidly evolving, and manufacturers need to stay abreast of new products to make good software purchasing decisions.

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