To improve sustainability and profitability, digital twins have the potential to revolutionize the way products are created, built, and operated. However, most digital twin projects to date have focused on a specific application case. Emerging digital twins standards promise to help connect the dots between individual digital twins to enable systems.
The International Standards Organization (ISO), the Industrial Digital Twins Association (IDTA) and the Digital Twins Consortium are developing several standards, posing challenges for unifying digital twins into systems. At the Digital Twin Summit, experts from each organization weighed in on where these standards are today and what they will do.
People tend to think about digital twins as monolithic structures, according to Irene Petrick, the senior director of Intel''s industrial innovation.
Petrick said that instead, we need to be aware of digital twins as being integrated in a technical perspective.
System of digital twin systems
What a digital twin needs and how it adds value are different when assessed at the level of a machine, a factory production cell, engineering and design, or a leadership level, Petrick explained. A broader adoption of standards might ensure the interoperability required to enable this system-of-systems approach.
Sameer Kher, the senior director of product development at Ansys, said that a manufacturing facility usually includes several kinds of equipment. In turn, each of these components is, in turn, composed of engineering techniques such as robot arms, motor drives, and software. Standards are crucial to achieving success in the real-world and virtual world.
The DTC is attempting to address this challenge by developing a collection of open-source software to validate open-source collaboration.
Enabling different types of questions
Boeing has been a huge proponent of digital twin standards for years, and has worked with several organizations to develop standards from the physical world to the digital.
According to Kenneth Swope, the senior manager of Boeing''s enterprise interoperability standards, these [standards] used to be in terms of processes and properties and characteristics of physical things. And they continue to be so, but they also focus on data.
The company of David Squibb is working to improve the use and exchange of information across industries involved in engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, service, and support. Teams have been exchanging data for a while.
The real benefit of digital twins is the opportunity to ask various kinds of questions to really clarify the age-old business challenges, such as how can I make my product safer, how can I make my product with higher quality, and how can I make my product more efficient, according to Swope.
Boeing developed a standard called the ISO-23247 to demonstrate how digital twins could significantly improve the design and assembly of fasteners in a jet wing. Using digital twins in tandem with instrumentation helped identify opportunities to reduce the size and the number of fasteners, reducing hundreds of pounds off the weight of a wing as compared to a traditional approach.
Digital links promise to connect the digital twin dots.
Gordon (Guodong) Shao is a computer scientist in the lifecycle engineering group at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). He has been working on the ISO-23247 standard and developing best practices as part of a NIST manufacturing testbed. He also wrote up a deep dive on various use cases of the technology.
Shao ruled out that digital twins require the use of components for data collecting, processing, communication, modeling, analytics, and control. Some of these can be distributed, thus there is a serious challenge to seamlessly integrating these various pieces.
Shao said that a system-of-systems approach must be used to characterize and manage these subsystems, ensuring cross-disciplinary interoperability and maintaining the safety of digital twins.
To assist manufacturers in choosing appropriate construction structures for digital twin implementations, ISO-23247 can aid them in understanding digital twin project requirements and utilizing common terminology when communicating with suppliers, partners, and customers.
With siloed digital twins, this new standard provides support for digital threads that connect the dots between data from different parts of a product life cycle. Digital threads will assist enterprise-level improvements that are more powerful than local optimization.
A lifecycle approach
Today, digital twins are more than just application-driven.
According to Christian Mosch, the director of IDTA, we need the interoperable digital twin.
At the end of life, the IDTA Asset Administration Shell standard provides a framework for sharing data across the various lifecycle phases, such as planning, development, construction, commissioning, and operation.
It provides a way of analyzing assets such as a robot arm and the administration of the various data and documents that describe it during various lifecycle phases. The shell provides a mechanism for consistently storing different kinds of information and documentation. For example, the robot arm may include engineering data such as 3D geometry drawings, design properties, and simulation results. It may also include proof certificates.
The Asset Administration Shell invests in operations technology used to manage equipment on the shop floor to reveal data throughout the lifecycle. For example, the robot arm generates a stream of operations statistics once it hits the shop floor, which is collected using OPC UA standards. Teams may also create processes that use this robot using customs written in automation ML.
The digital twin standards are still relatively small. The ISO-23247 standard was only finalized last October. However, panelists believe widespread adoption might play a major role in physical transformation.
Shao said that if you consider both the systems of system theory and the lifecycle theory and use the digital thread, you can save a lot of money on the information exchange, reuse the information and avoid customized effort.