14 January 2019

Interview with a Digital Twin

Remember that haunting Hollywood vampire tale from the 90s? Tom Cruise and Brad Pritt as beguiling immortals roaming fabled cities and centuries lusting for blood?

Well, I guess, I’m the Christian Slater in that story. At the Siemens booth on the packing industry’s FachPack2018 fare in Nuremberg I had the honor to sit down for an interview with a true shooting star in all genres, be it product design, machine engineering, or new packaging solutions.

The Digital Twin is a virtual doppelgaenger of physical objects and processes.

He is every production managers best friend, featured in cover-stories of tech magazines around the world, and there is just no way around him on the web. And like Lestat and Louis, the leading characters in that vampire flick, he is immortal. Meet the Digital Twin, the virtual doppelgaenger of physical objects and processes in the Internet of Things:

Mr. Digital Twin, how do you cope with the hype around your person?

Well, to me this hype comes quite natural. I am the mission for the vision of the designers.

What do you mean?

When I am created in the phase of product development, I serve as a digital prototype, or rather prototype simulation of the product. Take for example a filling machine. A key parameter here is viscosity, which describes the flow characteristics of fluids within such a machine. I can compute the expected fluid flows, and like this help the designer to determine what rpm the drive needs at what time.

That sounds pretty efficient. You mentioned the development phase; are there other phases where you come into the game?

Yes, there is at least one: that’s when I am an actual twin, a digital duplicate of my physical counterpart, the real machine.

What do you meanby ‚digital duplicate’?

Take a look at this flow packer fromthe company MIF. It is a real machine operating in the physical world of industrial packaging. I am just a digital duplicate of this flow packer, are modeling of the machine’s essential parameters like drive rpm, viscosities,unit sizes etc. in a virtual simulation. I behave just like my twin in the realworld. Yet, I will never be a real machine. I will never be able to actually perform the packaging of physical goods. Still, there is no need to frown over this. Being a digital duplicate comes with some essential advantages: 

1. I am unbreakable. If something goes wrong, you can just reset me, and I can start again. So in a sense, you could call me ‚immortal‘ (laughs).

2. I don’t cause any running costs, and my creation is much less costly than making an actual machine or prototype, let alone its maintenance and operation expenses.

3. I can be whatever my friends wan’t me to be, and change my whole set up ad libitum, much unlike a real machine in the physical world.

4. I do what my friends tell me to do. A real machine just does what it was originally designed to do. As a digital twin, I am much more flexible at reacting to input from my friends. In a sense, one could say, my friends from the real world can ‚communicate‘ and ‚talk‘ with me.

Friends? Who are your ‚friends’ then?

My friends, yes. I call them engineers (smiles). They examine, test, and experiment with me. They makedeliberate mistakes to see how I react (because that’s how my twin, the realmachine, would most probably react itself). They never stop improving me. They’remy friends. But they’re very demanding. I can tell you. It seems, I’m neverquite good enough. (sighs, rolls his eyes).

What do your friends, the engineers, hope to achieve by this?

They wan’t a realistic digital copy of a product, of the machine and the end product, and of its production process and performance. This facilitates sales of myself as a digital product, as well as of my real-world twin. I can serve as a living example for all features andwork flows of the physical machine, its performance, and f.e. its expected maintenance and operation costs. Furthermore, I am the main source of information and the precondition for successfully implementing digitalization within a company and developing new business models on the basis of this. One could say, I am your chief digital advisor.

Isn’t that agreat responsibility and burden for you?

No. I regard it as a mission to makemy real twin better. We are like Castor and Pollux, the fabled twins from Greek mythology. I am the immortal (digital) twin that can travel the virtual worldof IoT, my real machine is my mortal counterpart in the world of actualproduction and physical limitations. Together we form an inseparable dream teamfor the age of the digital enterprise and Industry 4.0. with many economical and ecological advantages.

That sounds exciting! Can you give us an example?

Look, speaking of a packaging machine,we save a lot of material and operation costs through the optimization process,and also in the subsequent startup, as it can be virtually executed beforehand.I am pretty confident about the challenges awaiting us digital twins, or ‚Digis‘,as some of our best friends call us. My trusted source Wiki just texted me thatwe ‚Digis’ already kept 94% of all information at hand in the year 2007. Take an educated guess at how much we know today? (grins)

Mr. Digital Twin, thank you for your time and valuable insights.

It was my pleasure. You can call me ‚Digi‘. (offers his hand)

Ok then, thanks a lot, Digi. It was great to talk to you. Success with your digitalization mission!

I am glad I had the chance to meet and talk to a real Digital Twin on the FachPack 2018 fare. I have gotten to know him much better now, and I am sure he can fulfill a lot of wishes and expectations regarding the digitalization process. Are you eager to meet one of our Digital Twins created for you and customized to your special needs? Just stop by the Siemens booth on one of the many industry fares like f.e. Hannover Messe, and make a new friend.

And don’t worry. Your Digital Twin won’t bite. He will just make your life as a human much easier.

To a long and lasting friendship!


Joffrey Schubert

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