Digital twins are virtual replicas capable of modelling massive entities such as factory floors and their machinery, production processes, systems and employees at high levels of detail including capacity, temperature, structural tension and stress on wearing parts.
The data they produce provides easily understood insights into how to boost productivity by adjusting utilisation rates or anticipating stoppages.
“A digital twin differs from conventional modelling in that it can be utilised at many stages of the production process,” stated Aki Mikkola, a professor of mechanical engineering at LUT University. “It may be used in production development, marketing, condition control, employee orientation and user training.”
The technology can also be applied to non-existent entities, such as a planned factory expansion, to model the operation of employees, robots and production lines or the recovery and use of excess heat, for example.
The benefits range from greater operational autonomy to improvements in energy, nature and raw material conservation.
Digitalising business in future
The development effort is part of a multidisciplinary project called Digibuzz, which aims to identify business opportunities for the technology and the best modelling solutions for its industrial partners.
Juhani Ukko, a senior researcher at LUT University, pointed to the lease of manufacturing capacity and sales of maintenance packages as examples of service concepts supported by digital twin technologies.
“Factory owners have previously had to ponder which updates and maintenance services are actually necessary. Modelling would show which parts should be dealt with and in what order for the production to remain efficient,” he elaborated.
LUT University in May announced it has begun developing a digital twin of a waste-heat recovery system for cruise ships as part of an over 10 million-euro research project to develop smart and green shipping by means of digitalisation and multidisciplinary collaboration.