Digital twins: a data-driven approach to sustainability

Misiunea Apollo 13, lansată în aprilie 1970, s-a transformat imediat într-o luptă pentru supraviețuire.  Rezervoarele de oxigen au explodat, urmând faimoasa misiune de salvare. Lumea întreagă își ținea respirația, în timp ce de la o distanță de 200.000 de mile se căutau soluții pentru problemele tehnice. Inginerii și astronauții au lucrat împreună pentru a-și da seama cum să manevreze și să navigheze o navă spațială grav avariată, să găsească modalități inovatoare de conservare a energiei, oxigenului și apei și, în cele din urmă, să descopere cum să repornească un modul de comandă care nu fusese proiectat pentru a fi oprit în spațiu.

The Apollo 13 mission, launched in April 1970, immediately turned into a fight for survival. The oxygen tanks exploded, following the famous rescue mission. The whole world held its breath as solutions to technical problems were sought from 200,000 miles away. Engineers and astronauts worked together to figure out how to maneuver and navigate a badly damaged spacecraft, find innovative ways to conserve energy, oxygen and water, and ultimately figure out how to restart a module command that had not been designed to be stopped in space.

Ruxandra Miuți, Innovation Manager, Green eDIH

Houston, we have a problem …

NASA had established the concept of digital twins through the practice of physically duplicating systems at ground level since the 60s. Thus, one of the keys to the rescue mission was Apollo 13’s digital twin, which allowed engineers to test possible solutions from ground level. Although they obviously weren’t called that at the time, these high-fidelity simulators and associated computer systems are considered the first examples of digital twins, their flexibility and adaptability being crucial to the homecoming of the three American astronauts more than 50 years ago. years.
Of course, in itself, a simulator is not a digital twin. What sets the Apollo 13 mission apart as the first use of a digital twin is how quickly NASA mission controllers were able to adapt and modify the simulations to match actual conditions on the crippled spacecraft so they could research and refine strategies to salvage. While Apollo 13 obviously didn’t use the Internet of Things (IoT), NASA used state-of-the-art telecommunications technology to stay in touch with its spacecraft. This data was eventually used to modify the simulators to reflect the condition of the damaged spacecraft.

Digital twins, from concept to Industry 4.0

Even though the term digital twin was only introduced in the 2000s, the concept has its roots in the era of the Apollo missions. Despite rudimentary technologies at the time, NASA used the basic ideas of digital twins to save the crew of Apollo 13, marking a crucial moment in the evolution of this technology.
The concept gained recognition in 2002 when Michael Grieves of the University of Michigan suggested the use of digital twins for product life cycle management. Today, digital twins have become an essential element of strategies in every industry, from manufacturing and construction to health and energy, evolving with technology to meet the diverse needs of modern society, opening new horizons for innovation and technological progress.
There are three key aspects of a digital twin: the physical product, the digital/virtual product, and the connection between these two entities. A simulation of the real world run on a computer is essentially a digital twin. This simulation can be fed with real-time data for monitoring and management. With a wide scope, digital twins integrate the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in Industry 4.0 to predict and manage product or process performance.
Key benefits of digital twins include rapid risk assessment, predictive maintenance, real-time monitoring, improved collaboration and efficient decision-making. These advantages assist companies in testing and validating a product before physical prototypes are created. For example, an engineer who needs to redesign and test a critical piece of equipment, such as a robotic arm, can use a digital twin to virtually test and manipulate the equipment. In the absence of this technology, it would be necessary to physically stop the production line for testing.
The applications of digital twins are diverse and cover a wide range of industries, from manufacturing, where they can be used to simulate and optimize production processes, to healthcare, automotive and smart urban infrastructure. Thus, these technologies contribute to the realization of a sustainable and efficient future.

The statistics are encouraging

Companies that have implemented digital twins have seen an average increase in efficiency of 15% and a reduction in maintenance costs by 13%. This highlights the tangible benefits of using digital twins in various industries. Moreover, a study by MarketsandMarkets predicts a significant market growth trajectory, from USD 3.5 billion in 2020 to USD 73.5 billion by 2027. This exponential growth underlines the pivotal role that digital twins are poised to play- l plays in the future of product development and industrial optimization.
Looking ahead, the digital twin sector is forecast to experience a remarkable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38% between 2021 and 2026. This forecast shows a profound shift in the way industries operate, with ample opportunities for innovation, investment and development.
In terms of application, the manufacturing sector is projected to hold the most significant share of digital twins usage by 2025, signaling a transformative shift in the industrial landscape. This underscores the critical role of digital twins in optimizing manufacturing processes and improving operational efficiency.
The healthcare sector is witnessing rapid growth with an estimated CAGR of 31.9% between 2020 and 2026. This growth indicator underscores the potential of digital twins to revolutionize patient care and disease management, paving the way for new innovations in healthcare delivery .

Developing the Industrial Metaverse

Overall, the numbers reveal a vivid picture of the booming digital twin industry and their transformative impact across sectors from manufacturing to healthcare, setting the stage for a future defined by innovation and optimization. In the automotive industry, for example, BMW has developed a digital twin of its iNext electric vehicle, which allows engineers to simulate and optimize various aspects of design and performance. The digital twin integrates sensor data with simulation software to create a virtual model of the vehicle that can be used to test and optimize different scenarios. One of the key applications of digital twin technology in smart cities is the optimization of transport systems. By creating a digital twin of a city’s transport network, different scenarios can be simulated and the most efficient routes and modes of transport can be identified. This can reduce congestion, improve air quality and the overall efficiency of the transport system. In the supply chain, digital twin technology can be used to create a virtual representation of the entire network, from suppliers to customers.

Digital twin technology is also making significant strides in the medical industry, where it can be used to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. By creating a digital twin of a patient, healthcare providers can gain a better understanding of the patient’s condition, identify potential problems before they occur, and optimize treatment plans to improve outcomes. For example, Philips has developed a digital twin of a patient’s heart, which allows healthcare providers to simulate the effects of different treatments and drugs on the patient’s condition. The digital twin integrates data from sensors and other sources, as well as simulation software, to create a virtual model of the patient’s heart that can be used to optimize treatment plans.
Digital twin technology is increasingly used in the construction industry to improve efficiency, safety and cost effectiveness. With the ability to create a digital replica of a building or infrastructure, construction companies can simulate and analyze different scenarios, allowing them to make more informed decisions about the project.

Paradigm Shift in Sustainability

By meticulously managing resource consumption, waste generation and emissions, these digital counterfeits pave the way for greener and more sustainable practices. For example, LG Electronics’ factory in Changwon, Korea integrated real-time production data into its digital twins, achieving remarkable productivity gains and significant reductions in energy consumption. Procter & Gamble’s Guangzhou factory has optimized its warehouse operations through digital twins, resulting in significant inventory reductions and substantial logistics cost savings, all while advancing sustainability goals. Furthermore, the Schneider Electric site in LeVaudreuil implemented digital twins to optimize energy management, reduce waste and minimize CO2 emissions.
The foray into digital twins reveals a profound truth: sustainability and efficiency are intertwined aspects of a single vision. By adopting this holistic perspective, Green eDIH paves the way for greener industries, considering the integration of these concepts essential for the convergence of digitalization and sustainability. Through the innovative projects in which they are involved, Green eDIH experts contribute to the creation of a future in which digital twins are ways of sustainable transformation in the economy and society.

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