Wouldn´t it be great to simulate things varying from toasters to planes, modify processes and prevent problems or even accidents before investing real-world resources into actual implementation? That’s what digital twins are able to offer.

But what are digital twins? They are exact virtual representations of physical objects, processes, or even systems that allow for real-time monitoring, analysis and optimization, before the actual object etc. has taken its final form. More specifically, by collecting data from sensors and other sources, it is possible to create a digital twin that accurately reflects the performance of a physical system.

Digital twins can be useful in a lot of sectors, but their popularity and use in the manufacturing section increase day by day.

One of the greatest things digital twins can offer is the ability to optimize production processes. A digital twin of a production line can simulate and enhance the overall performance of the system, identifying possible bottlenecks and inefficiencies beforehand to reduce maintenance issues and optimize the production process. In addition, digital twins can help improve the manufacturing process by identifying quality issues and ensuring that the final product meets the required quality standards. For instance, thanks to these practices, Boeing was able to achieve a 40% improvement rate in first-time quality of parts.

The use of digital twins in advanced manufacturing is not limited to the production line or product design. They can also be used to monitor and optimize the performance of machines and robots.  Practically, we can simulate all kinds of robots, from robot vacuums to humanoids that could potentially ruin the world, and observe its movements, actions, and interactions with other objects in a virtual environment. This can help identify potential issues with the robot’s design or programming and optimize its performance before it is deployed in the real world. By doing so, the downtime could be reduced while the manufacturing process could overall become more efficient. Even when they are launched, by collecting data, it is possible to create a digital twin that accurately reflects the performance of the physical robot. Like that, the robot’s movements can be monitored, possible issues could be identified, and performance could be optimized in real-time. And who knows, you could potentially save the world.

However, it´s not all daisies and roses. Some big problems may occur. One of them is data privacy and cybersecurity. Digital twins rely on the collection of data from various sources, including sensors, machines, and people. It is important to ensure that the data collected is secure and that privacy concerns are addressed. In this case, companies should be obliged to have policies and procedures in place to protect sensitive data and ensure that it is not shared or used inappropriately. Furthermore, digital twins are only as good as the data that is used to create them. Errors in the data can lead to incorrect conclusions and suboptimal decisions.

Last but not least, the subject could raise ethical concerns, especially when monitoring individuals or making decisions that affect them. Furthermore, the potential for bias and discrimination is raised. If the data used to create a digital twin is biased or incomplete, it could lead to discriminatory practices that impact certain groups of people. It is therefore important to ensure that the data used is accurate, validated, and reliable. In addition, questions about accountability and responsibility can be raised. If decisions are made based on the analysis of digital twin data, who is responsible for those decisions? Should there be transparency around how digital twin data is used and who is making decisions based on that data?

In conclusion, in today’s fast-paced manufacturing world, digital twins have emerged as a game-changing technology, offering businesses the ability to optimize processes, reduce downtime, and improve product quality. However, as with any powerful technology, there are also risks and ethical concerns to consider. By carefully balancing the benefits and potential downsides, businesses can harness the power of digital twins to transform their operations and stay ahead of the competition.

Featured image credit: Freepik.

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