Illustration: Digital Twins in Automotive Manufacturing
October 6, 2021

Digital Twins in Manufacturing: What You Need to Know

Version Control
Digital Twins

Across industries, we’re seeing more use of digital twins in manufacturing. Digital twin visualization technology pairs well with the sensors that manufacturers use to gather vital information on production processes. Now, the information being collected via smart manufacturing systems can be incorporated into visual, interactive models. These models help teams drive innovation.

What is a Digital Twin in Manufacturing?

A digital twin in manufacturing — also known as a digital replica — is a virtual copy of a real-world component in the manufacturing process. As an enhanced computer model, this digital representation uses inputs from a real-world component. The digital twin mirrors the real component’s status, functionality, and/or interaction with other devices.

What Industries Use Digital Twins for Manufacturing?

Any industry that manufactures items can use digital twins, and most are already using them in some shape or form. Just some of the industries that use digital twins in manufacturing include:

How Are Digital Twins Used in Manufacturing?

Digital twins can be used in manufacturing in several ways:

Improving System Designs

Teams in manufacturing use digital twins to plan out and test new production lines. This means they can find potential problems and areas to optimize before they create the physical system, saving time and money. In the same vein, warehouse designs can be planned more easily and effectively with digital twins. Digital twin visualization techniques can make problems much more visible. They also help improve communication within the whole team.

Testing New Products

Before, teams had to go through a lengthy trial and error process to test manufacturing a new or updated product in an existing system. With digital twins, manufacturers can test out updated configurations while lowering the risk of costly miscalculations. Simulating many different scenarios is faster and easier than physical testing.

Monitoring and Preventative Maintenance

Manufacturing teams have long been collecting vital information about their machinery, such as humidity, motion, vibration, etc. Now, with IoT connected devices and digital twins, this information can be incorporated into a comprehensive view of a system, complete with real-time data. Outliers, spikes in usage, or unexpected behaviors become easier to notice earlier on. If a problem begins to develop for a component, teams will be aware of it before it has the chance to halt production or become a hazard.

Asset Lifecycle Management

Using digital twin technology, manufacturers can provide augmented reality (AR) programs to maintenance technicians. Through AR glasses, technicians can view the most up-to-date models of the machine laid over the one in front of them. This ensures they always have the right specs as they need them.

 

How to Start Building Digital Twins for Manufacturing

Learn how to get started building digital twins for manufacturing with this webinar hosted by Robert Cowham, Principal Consultant at Perforce.

Build Digital Twins for Your Industry

 

Tools Needed to Develop Digital Twins

The tools you need to build digital twins in a manufacturing setting will depend on the purpose of the digital twin. Some tools that are useful to have include:

CAD or 3D Modeling Tools

Engineering and design teams will already have CAD or other 3D design programs as a foundation of their manufacturing process. Companies building digital twins create pipelines in which CAD designs are exported into other tools in the pipeline. Such a pipeline has many advantages. One of them is not having to make the same changes twice in two different tools. If a change has to be made in a CAD design, it can be brought over seamlessly into the enhanced digital twin. Another benefit is the speed of overall development.

IoT/Connected Devices

IoT & connected devices can be combined to enhance digital twins. They supply continuous, real-time data that is emulated in the digital twin. Combined with digital twin technology, IoT & connected devices can make a huge difference in communication, especially between teams.

Game Engines

Because of their powerful rendering abilities and advanced physics engines, game engines like Unreal supercharge the capabilities of digital twins. They make visualizations easier to understand by bringing them to life and enabling an emotional connection with the thing they represent.

Version control

All of the data collected and created in the digital twin process (and there is a lot of it) needs to be managed carefully. A version control system allows you to manage changes to files over time and store these modifications in a database. More on this later.

Questions to Ask Before Developing Digital Twins for Manufacturing

Some questions to ask before beginning to develop digital twins for your manufacturing business are:

  • What are you going to do if your digital twin files are lost or corrupted?
  • What is your backup structure?
  • How are you going to keep track of the release copy vs. previous versions?
  • If you have multiple digital twin models that make up the final product, how are you going to link them all together?

The answer to all of the above is version control. Developing digital twins for manufacturing involves managing tons of large files and multiple iterations of a project. Depending on your operating scale, you may even be managing multiple team members, who may be spread across different locations.

Storing all of this work on your network drive is simply not efficient. You need a tool that is designed to handle this kind of project: Perforce Helix Core. It’s the only version control that can handle everything involved developing digital twins for manufacturing — securely, at lightning speeds, for everyone on your team.

Digital Twins Across Industries

Want to learn more about how digital twins are being used to innovate across industries?

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