Digital Twins

In manufacturing, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a manufacturing process, product or system that is used to model and analyze its characteristics and behaviors. Digital twins in manufacturing are created using data from sensors, software and other sources attached to or used with the physical process, product or system, and they allow engineers and designers to test and optimize the performance of the manufacturing process, product or system in a virtual environment before it is built or deployed. Digital twins can be used for training, process optimization, product design and quality control, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming physical testing.

Digital Twins Content

Using a 3D digital twin and augmented reality

3D digital twins and augmented reality (AR) can help manufacturers better understand places that are often dangerous for a human to access.


Learning Objectives

  • Digital twins are replicas of physical devices.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for remote access.
  • Augmented reality (AR) helps users enter situations they are physically unable to.

A digital twin is a digital replica of a physical device. The session at ARC Industry Forum “Digital Twins for Improving Operations and Maintenance” provided an explanation of the types of digital twins in industry and their applications. During plant design and build, a “project digital twin” provides a means to simulate and improve front-end engineering design (FEED), construction sequencing and commissioning.

For operations, the performance twin uses real-time data to assess status for predictive maintenance, process optimization, and operator training. A 3D digital twin of a plant can also be used to navigate to a virtual representation of an asset to access information about the real asset, which is the topic of this case story.

Digital twin for off-site operations support

During ARC Forum session exploring digital twins in plants, CEO and Managing Director of Delta Drone International Christopher Clark presented his company’s approach to digital twins. This presentation provides a user case story by Rocketmine, a subsidiary of Delta Drone Group, for the application of a digital twin using Bentley Systems’ PlantSight software.

Plantwide asset information with remote access

Using a combination of laser scans and photogrammetry, Rocketmine created a 3D model of a mine processing plant.  During the ARC Virtual Forum, Delta Drone presented its case story for plant support by off-site experts using:

  • 3D digital twin for current information
  • Augmented reality to guide in real-time.

The need for remote access accelerated during the pandemic. Benefits include faster time to issue resolution with no travel time.

important assets are converted into a software object. Links to sources of information for that asset are added to the object. A user of the Bentley software can navigate through the 3D model to the asset, double click on the software object, and obtain current, federated information about the asset.

Remote plant access with augmented reality

With the COVID-19 pandemic, plant operators need a means to obtain support from people not able to enter the plant. This is where augmented reality (AR) comes in. A remote expert can see what a person in the plant sees and give them guidance. The expert can draw notations onto the display that both see. With HoloLens’ integrated 3D scanning capability, the notations remain fixed where they were drawn relative to the real objects in view – even when the person moves their head.

The software for the remote expert scenario comes with HoloLens. The on-site person will likely need the integrated hardhat. The remote expert can use an office grade Microsoft HoloLens device.

Co-presenter Devon Hasenbroek demonstrated augmented reality (AR) by stepping through a previously written instruction sequence for changing the battery in a drone as an example of AR being used to aid people in performing important procedures with which they are not familiar. Hasenbroek and Clark also demonstrated the remote expert scenario.

AR offers a means for collaboration to solve a problem that the person in the plant is not familiar with. Many companies have experts in a central location supporting multiple plants. Using AR avoids travel with faster time to resolution and reduced travel costs. Payback often occurs in months. Users should consider AR for real-time support of plant personnel by remote experts.

Ralph Rio, vice president, enterprise software, ARC Advisory Group. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,


Keywords: Industry 4.0, digital twins


What benefits can your facility gain from digital twins and AR?

Digital Twins FAQ

  • How can digital twins be used in manufacturing?

    • Equipment simulation: Digital twins can be used to simulate and test production equipment and processes, reducing the need for physical prototypes and allowing for faster and more cost-effective product development.
    • Predictive maintenance: Digital twins can be used to monitor production equipment in real-time, allowing for predictive maintenance, reducing downtime and increasing efficiency.
    • Process optimization: Digital twins can be used to optimize production processes, including real-time monitoring of key performance indicators and the ability to quickly identify and address problems.
    • Supply chain management: Digital twins can be used to manage the supply chain, including real-time visibility into inventory levels, tracking of shipments and deliveries and the ability to optimize delivery schedules.
    • Quality control: Digital twins can be used for quality control, including real-time monitoring of production processes and collection and analysis of quality data.
    • Decision support: Digital twins can be used for decision support, including real-time monitoring of production processes and the ability to use historical data and analytics to make informed decisions.
  • What are the biggest challenges facing industrial digital twins?

    • Data integration: Industrial digital twins require access to large amounts of data from a variety of sources, including sensors, manufacturing equipment and other systems. Integrating this data can be challenging, especially if the data is stored in different formats and systems.
    • Data quality: Ensuring the quality of the data used to create and maintain the digital twin is critical. This includes ensuring that the data is accurate, up-to-date and relevant.
    • Model accuracy: Creating an accurate model of a physical asset is a complex task, requiring detailed knowledge of the asset and its behavior. Ensuring the accuracy of the model over time is critical for ensuring the success of the digital twin.
    • Computational demands: Industrial digital twins often require significant computing resources, including processing power, memory and storage. Ensuring that these resources are available and scalable can be challenging.
    • Cybersecurity: Ensuring the security of the digital twin is critical, as it is a valuable asset that can be targeted by cyber-attacks. This requires a strong security infrastructure and ongoing monitoring and protection.
    • Technical expertise: Creating and maintaining industrial digital twins requires specialized technical expertise, including knowledge of the physical asset, data analysis and modeling.
  • Why are digital twins important?

    • Improved asset performance: Digital twins can help optimize the performance of physical assets by providing real-time data and insights into the asset's behavior and enabling predictive maintenance.
    • Better decision-making: Digital twins can provide detailed information about the asset and its performance, enabling informed decision-making and improved planning.
    • Increased efficiency: By enabling predictive maintenance, digital twins can help reduce downtime and improve the efficiency of production processes.
    • Reduced costs: Digital twins can help reduce the costs of maintenance, repairs, and replacements by enabling proactive maintenance and reducing the need for physical inspections.
    • Improved product design: Digital twins can be used to test and validate new product designs, enabling rapid iteration and improvement of the design process.
    • Better customer experience: Digital twins can help improve the customer experience by providing real-time information and insights into the performance of a product or service.
    • Improved collaboration: Digital twins can be used to collaborate with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to share information, identify opportunities and resolve issues.
  • How do you build a digital twin in manufacturing?

    A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical product, process, or system, created using digital technologies, such as computer-aided design (CAD), computer simulation, and internet of things (IoT) sensors. The purpose of a digital twin is to provide real-time insights into the performance and behavior of the physical product, process, or system. The technology is built using a combination of software and hardware components, including sensors, cloud computing, data analytics, and machine learning algorithms.

Some FAQ content was compiled with the assistance of ChatGPT. Due to the limitations of AI tools, all content was edited and reviewed by our content team.

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