Digital Twin: What is this technology?

Presented as a great revolution in the industrial field, the concept of digital twin or “digital twin” in English is gradually gaining ground, especially in industry and healthcare.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin, also known as a “digital twin”, is the image of an object, a system or a process in digital form. The technology uses streams of data to adjust presentations according to expected scenarios or track developments in real-time to improve collaboration, information access and decision-making. For example, by being able to simulate the physical world, digital twins help companies make better use of resources, reduce carbon emissions, optimize supply and transportation networks, and increase employee safety.

Digital twin technology is not new, NASA was one of the first organizations to use rudimentary digital twins in the late 1960s. Since the 2010s, developments in connectivity, data analysis data and sensors have made them a cost-effective solution that allows the user offers companies more flexibility.

“There are two big families of digital twins, each with different approaches,” explains one at the Leonardo da Vinci engineering school, where a course on digital twins was set up at the beginning of the 2019 school year.

  • One, referred to as “bottom-up,” where we start from a sensor-equipped asset to recover the data that came from it. With this data, we create predictive models thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) techniques such as machine learningDeep Learning and Neural Networks.
  • The other, more top-down approach relies on second-generation simulation-based digital twins. We start with equations from physics, which we feed from measurements and solve numerically to predict the behavior. These digital twins will revolutionize simulation operations in Factory 4.0.

The technologies associated with the digital twin therefore mainly concern computer-aided engineering/design (CAE/CAD), artificial intelligence (AI), real-time data analysis orinternet of things.

Why use a digital twin?

According to the Altair study, surveillance is the most common benefit among digital twin users. ©Altair

Digital twins are changing the industrial world by changing the development phase of a product or the use of devices. Prior to the development of the digital twin concept, a company would physically create an object in order to subject it to a series of tests and make changes to it. With the digital twin, the data collected on the evolution of the object allows its performance to be predicted and optimized. After the study “2022 Digital Twin Global Survey Report”. by the American simulation company Altair, conducted in May 2022 in ten countries with more than 2,000 people from companies with more than 100 employees, 43% of those surveyed believe that digital twin solutions will make physical tests obsolete in four years or sooner.

With digital twins, companies can:

  • Gain reliability
  • Improve the security level of their products
  • Increase consumer confidence in your products
  • Reduce repair costs by anticipating future failures.

What is the difference between the digital twin and BIM?

Construction and real estate professionals have been active for several years BIM (Building Information Modeling), ie the creation of data models. The digital BIM model can, for example, serve as a basic element for the digital twin by collecting the various building data. The digital twin, in turn, brings the benefits of the IoT with the ability to predict incidents, especially structural ones.

Digital twins in healthcare

Healthcare is an economic sector directly affected by the emergence of digital twins. This is mainly about:

  • Test treatments on a virtual patient (or digital twin) before administering them to the real patient
  • Develop the simulation of complex operations
  • Improving the quality of medical devices such as prostheses
  • Testing the effectiveness of a molecule on the body
  • Etc

Many initiatives and experiments have been started in France. The startup Exactcure, for example, builds the user’s digital twin on top of their application to know each patient’s personal drug response. This digital doppelganger thus prevents incidents of drug abuse. In November 2019, Exactcure signed an agreement with the Vidal Group, which specializes in healthcare information systems, to integrate their personalized simulations into the Vidal Sentinel platform for hospital pharmacists. In order to offer everyone the best treatment against the coronavirus, the Nice start-up has integrated certain molecules tested by researchers against the coronavirus into its model databases, such as hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra) or remdesivir.

Examples of digital twins

“First used to model an object like an aircraft engine, the digital twin is now used to represent an entire system: an aircraft in its entirety, a supply chain, a factory, etc.”, notes Michel Morvan, co-founder and president of Cosmo Tech, a French publisher specializing in augmented intelligence solutions to use digital twins to predict what can happen in random situations. For example, Cosmo Tech created Renault’s supply chain digital twin to optimally meet demand based on production, inventory, team organization, etc. The solution for the automobile manufacturer a king in three months and is now working at Michelin.

Another example with the EDF Group, which relies on the digital twins of the publisher Ansys to plan its new generation nuclear power plants and optimize their energy efficiency. EDF signed a multi-year contract with Ansys in early March 2020, allowing it to develop advanced instrumentation and control tools at a lower cost and much faster than traditional physical prototyping and testing methods.

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