9 Digital Twin Use Cases That Will Make You Consider Investing in Virtual Reality

October 23 2022

The combination of extended reality (XR), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) brings forth the digital twin, a virtual replica simulating the conditions and data of a physical asset in real time. With the rise of Industry 4.0 (and digital transformation popularity), more and more industries are embracing digital twin use cases for operational efficiency and productivity.

Table of content 

What Is a Digital Twin?

Simply put, a digital twin is a virtual model of a physical device, service, or environment. It receives and operates on data from real-world processes, allowing programmers to run simulations, predict performance issues, and work on possible improvements for its physical counterpart.

The physical asset or device under observation is equipped with sensors, which collect data about the asset’s performance and functionality. The data is transferred to a virtual cloud processing system and fed to the digital twin.

The digital twin replicates all physical functions, allowing data scientists to explore more of the asset’s performance in simulated environments. As you can imagine, these are invaluable for identifying opportunities, prioritizing optimizations and predicting capabilities of future processes. All with relatively lower cost compared to full scale production. Digital twins also serve as prototype models for specialists to experiment with before engineers work on the real-world version of the asset or device being studied.

The History of the Digital Twin Technology

Origin and Conceptualization

Digital twin technology was first conceptualized in the laboratories of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA. In the 1960s, NASA scientists would build duplicates of systems to match those operating in outer space. They developed a digital twin model to simulate and predict the situation aboard Apollo 13.

Source: blog.siemens.com

The Apollo 13 mission quickly met its end as oxygen tanks failed and exploded two days into the mission. The implementation of a digital twin on the ground level contributed to the success of the rescue mission, as engineers were able to assess and test out all possible mission outcomes, troubleshooting, and solutions.

The Digital Twin and Mainstream Technology

2002

NASA may have been testing out prototypes with digital twin technology as early as the 1960s, but it wasn’t till 2002 that the public heard about digital twins.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers held a conference in Michigan, where the concept of the digital twin was formally introduced to the public. The digital twin model was recognized as the core of product lifecycle management (PLM).

2017 to Present

The digital twin concept has undergone countless innovations. In 2017, it became the latest trend in technology. Industries of all kinds raced to introduce digital twin technology in their workflows. Technological enhancements led to further refinement of the Internet of Things (IoT), amplifying the adaptability and cost-efficiency of today’s digital twin technology. Businesses leverage digital twin simulations in prototyping, troubleshooting, and discovering potential areas for new business ventures.

Benefits of Digital Twin Technology

Enhanced Product Design and Research

Data scientists have free real estate on the data to develop and refine products based on the possibility of various performance outcomes. Companies can make as many prototypes as they want until they are confident to begin production.

Accelerated Production Time

Digital twins provide companies with real-time insights into the operational value, progress, and quality of their products. With process simulation, engineers can validate a product’s value before proceeding to physical development. This not only cuts back expensive production costs but also saves precious time for products to be manufactured and shipped off for quicker time-to-market.

Predictive System Maintenance

Real-time data enables companies to stay ahead of upcoming system issues. Big data and the Internet of Things, together with artificial intelligence, streamline maintenance processes for a more conveniently timed maintenance check. Maintenance costs are also significantly reduced.

Real-time Remote Performance Tracking and Troubleshooting

Digital twins enable data scientists and other authorized personnel to keep watch of the system’s performance as a whole. The data processing system is hosted on the cloud, allowing for remote access whenever and wherever.

Elevated Employee Training

Digital twins have the capacity to simulate the training process and environment to immerse employees in their training. With data collected from surveys and performance assessments, the digital twin can pinpoint areas of opportunity for employees to become more efficient and deliver better performance.

Improved Supply Chain Agility

The uncertainty of supply chains in times of calamity or international distress pushes companies to adopt resilient mindsets. A digital twin model of the supply chain delivers valuable insights into the state of the physical supply chain. Companies can proceed to adjust internal workflows and partnership agreements to overcome foreseeable conflicts.

Avenue for New Business Opportunities

Digital twin technology provides businesses with an abundance of data. These data have the potential to become valuable for new business opportunities. Data on the best-selling products motivate businesses to invest in new business models, introduce a newer, better product, or send invites for new partnership deals with relevant brands.

Where Is Digital Twin Technology Used?

Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is by far the biggest industry to implement digital twin technology. Manufacturing processes deal with complex work processes, equipment, and more, causing companies to lose track of what’s happening.

In manufacturing, digital twins revolve around operational efficiency and operations management. Digital twins process data on workload and equipment performance, providing managers with a clear overview of how the system is running. With these insights, managers and other authorized users can utilize artificial intelligence and big data to enable predictive maintenance.

Healthcare

Digital twin technology showcases its versatility in the healthcare sector, where programmers can set up a digital replica of a hospital and all internal processes for accessible healthcare operations and personalized care.

A digital twin of hospital operations and healthcare programs enables healthcare officials to revisit strategies in place and explore all possible outcomes should changes in staffing, strategy, budget, and more improve the overall performance of the hospital.

Additionally, personalized care may be more accessible with the help of digital twins. The digital twin processes patient data to come up with the best healthcare options to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Automotive

The automotive industry deals with costly product designs and launches. Thus, computing errors or design malfunctions in a car may cost them significant financial losses on market recalls. Digital twin technology helps sidestep critical issues like this by providing automotive engineers with a virtual environment to test and explore the design and performance of a car, from engine composition to tire structure.

Aviation

A popular digital twin use case is engine development. For the aviation industry, the build and performance of an engine require the utmost attention from engineers. Digital twin technology allows engineers to operate a digital copy of the physical engine and test its limits in various simulated weather conditions and other situations.

Oil and Gas

Digital twins in the oil and gas industry allow corporations to improve plant performance with predictive analysis. Digital twins test real-time physical data in environments simulated after the typical and extreme conditions a gas plant may experience. Data on subsea equipment, heat, and temperature enlighten engineers on the necessary computations to consider for optimized operations and productivity of oil and gas plants.

Retail

Businesses in the retail industry can experiment with virtual representations of their customer personas. Data provided by the digital twin allows business owners to assess customer service and enhance customer experience.

Supply Chain

A typical digital twin use case in the supply chain industry is adopting smarter predictions. In simulating the physical supply chain and its processes, businesses gain insights into the agility and flaws that are likely to happen if not addressed sooner. In addition, the AI-powered predictions of the digital twin cut back costs brought by supply chain downtime.

Digital Twin Use Cases and Applications

Aviation

Digital Twin Use Case Example: Rolls-Royce

The Rolls-Royce 3D Engine, as showcased at the Paris Air Show

Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce implements digital twin technology to experiment with various engine designs and inspection processes. Digital twin models allow aviation engineers to test the limits and maintenance requirements of an engine prototype before they proceed to develop the physical model.

Automotive

Digital Twin Use Case Example: BMW

A peek at the inside of the digital twin assembly system from automaker BMW

NVIDIA and BMW collaborated in a large-scale effort to set up an AI-powered automotive factory. They provided a highlight demo of what people can expect: a digital twin assembly system, configuring custom BMW models in real-time. Aside from 3D-rendered car models, the digital twin factory also “employs” digital humans trained with knowledge gathered from real employees.

Retail

Digital Twin Use Case Example: Kroger

Kroger and NVIDIA teams up to develop a digital twin to improve shopping experience

U.S retail store chain giant Kroger takes its modernization efforts up a notch with a partnership deal with NVIDIA. Together, they aim to develop an AI-powered lab to streamline store operations and boost the customers’ shopping experience.

Manufacturing

Digital Twin Use Case Example: Bridgestone

Bridgestone showed what a tire goes through in a real-time drive down the road with digital twin technology

With 90 years of expert leadership in tire design and technology, Bridgestone shows no signs of stopping when it comes to discovering innovations in tire manufacturing. In fact, the brand’s debut appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 involved a digital twin showcase of its proprietary tire technology. In an aim to educate the people, Bridgestone used a digital twin to demonstrate the composition of a tire and what it goes through when driven.

Bridgestone aims to take its digital twin technology further. With a digital twin of its proprietary tires, vehicle safety systems are supplied with real-time predictions.

Digital Twin Use Case Example: INVISTA

INVISTA introduces digital twin technology in elevating its employee training experience

Manufacturing company INVISTA takes a proactive approach to train employees how to operate bulky equipment in a noisy facility. A curious employee named Dane Laughlin, who has experience in environmental health and safety, took notice of the dangers of the company’s employee training. Without proper supervision, inexperienced employees are exposed to various dangers in the workplace. Not to mention, the training segment was time-consuming and ineffective.

Laughlin, with the cooperation of other employees, devised a virtual reality (VR) simulation for the training. The new VR training system is predicted to reduce training time by 50% and improve the trainee’s proficiency around the workplace without exposing them to any danger.

Oil and Gas

Digital Twin Use Case Example: Infotrax Engineering

VAM2 Software Demo for Plant Maintenance and Inspection

SaaS agency Infotrax Engineering developed VAM2, a digital twin solution that is ideal for the management of offshore oil and gas plants. With the digital twin tool, remote access to the latest updates on the state of the plant has never been easier. Physical assets are assessed and documented in real-time, allowing managers to run safety inspections and other maintenance processes at scale.

Supply Chain Logistics

Digital Twin Use Case Example: anyLogistix

An overview of the internal processing of a digital twin supply chain

Supply chain software provider anyLogistix delivers a digital twin platform to supply chain managers to boost operational efficiency and address bottlenecks. This digital twin technology integrates with enterprise software and processes real-time data to execute troubleshooting, predictive maintenance, and supply chain oversight.

Healthcare

Virtual Reality Digital Twin Use Case Example: Circuit Stream

Intro to Oculus Quest 2: VR Development with Unity by Circuit Stream

Train future healthcare providers and doctors the smart way with the immersive AR/VR Unity class provided by Circuit Stream. This quick 1.5 hour online workshop introduces students to a virtual chemistry lab, where they can conduct experiments safely without risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and open flames.

Final Thoughts

The rapid advancements in technology drive industries to embrace digital twin technology. With the endless potential to bring value and deliver actionable insights into product performance, the digital twin proves to be an essential component as businesses adopt more digital processes for product design, development, and production.

If you’re looking to implement digital twin technology into your business, you will have to either develop them in-house or hire a development company. The software used for digital twins are professional 3D software tools like Unity or Unreal, or professional specialized products like Altair, MATLAB or others.

Check out Circuit Stream’s 30-week Unity Developer Bootcamp to learn the fundamentals of building 3d solutions with Unity software.

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REVIEWED BY

Dejan Gajsek

Content Marketing

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