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DT evolution in Manufacturing – XVII

The Digital Transformation shift a good portion of the enterprise to the cyberspace. Digital Twins are crucial component in the operation in the cyberspace and, also important, they can support interactions with the cyberspace through Virtual Reality and overlay the cyberspace onto the physical space through Augmented Reality. In other words they are both part of the operations in the cyberspace and bridges linking cyber and physical spaces.

The Digital Transformation -DX- is ongoing and, actually, it has been accelerated by the pandemic that forced many companies to move as much as possible of their activities to the cyberspace.

As shown in the graphic, Digital Twins are tools that support operation in the cyberspace for many entities and processes. Data resulting from the shift to the cyberspace create a model of the entity/process in the physical space and the stream of data provided by sensors support the shadowing. In addition, all data are kept forming the thread. Hence, the three components making up a Digital Twin are available as result of the DX.

Does the DX require Digital Twins? No. Would the DX benefit from Digital Twins? Absolutely.

Digital Twins provide a structure to entities in the cyberspace and connect them to their counterpart in the physical space. They provide a “method” and a standard of operation, through encapsulation of entity. This is particularly important when we are dealing with data and want to preserve their ownership whilst at the same time we want to share them. Rather than sharing the value a Digital Twin makes possible to share its “meaning” through interactions. These interactions can be monitored and can be managed according to a framework. This applies to Digital Twins at stage 3 and beyond, particularly to those at stage 4 and beyond since at those stages Digital Twins offer functions and interactions with third parties (not those with the physical entity) are based on function activation.

One of the issue with shifting the physical to the “digital” is the loss of visibility. Seeing “bits” is not easy and most of the times it is meaningless. Here is where DTs come handy. They are a model and this model can be rendered, made visible in a meaningful way using Virtual Reality. This happens during the design phase, when the physical entity does not yet exist. Designers, even if they are scattered around the globe can look and interact with the design seeing what the physical entity will be like and even experimenting with it. Maintenance crew can use the model to see “inside” an engine, to try out ways of fixing a problem. Actually, an exciting application of Digital Twins and virtual reality is in the area of Surgery where surgeons can practice with the digital model of the patient trying different approaches to a surgery.

It is not just supporting through virtual reality the access to the cyberspace. It is also the possibility to use the Digital Twin to connect the cyberspace with the physical space through Augmented Reality. In this case the Digital Twin can steer the rendering of data onto the physical entity or render a physical entity in a different physical ambient. 

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.