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Difference Between Digital Twin, Digital Model, and Digital Shadow

Futurists have been predicting the age of “technological singularity” for years. Though this term usually refers to a point when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence, other technologies are already in our midst and in the process of becoming a part of our lives. Digital twins, digital models, and digital shadows are one such trend. So what exactly is a digital twin? And how does it differ from a digital model or a digital shadow? In this article, we'll uncover all there is to know about the three different types of virtual companions that you can have in your life today. We'll also show you where they're being used today and how they're affecting our lives in ways we may not have anticipated just yet.

The Difference between the Three Terms

The world is becoming increasingly more digitized. From our social media, our cars, to business automation, everything is being transformed into the digital realm. But what are the differences between these three terms? While they all have different definitions and purposes, they show how we're increasingly living in a digital world. Let’s look at the detailed explanations for each of these.

The Digital Twin

Digital twins can be compared to a backup of your company's data and infrastructure. A digital twin is a virtual representation of the physical counterpart. They are an incredible new technology that has the potential to change how we manufacture and design products, optimize machinery and buildings, and collect data for decision-making. A digital twin is a digitally enhanced representation of a physical object, such as an airplane, ship, or car.

The digital twin was created to operate in parallel and interact with real-world physical production equipment, enhancing the digitalization capabilities of computer-aided design, or CAD. Cyber-physical systems use digital twins to represent real-time data from the assets on the shop floor, generating a digital version of the physical system.

Using a digital twin, we can view a facility's functions as if they were in the virtual world. That is why complicated industrial challenges may be accurately evaluated in the virtual environment it provides. Digital twins can be used for a variety of purposes, including remote monitoring, condition monitoring, and testing and validation.

A functioning digital twin's cyber-physical system allows for two-way data transmission. The digital twin receives data from the factory floor, and it may also transmit data back to the factory floor to trigger particular actions on the manufacturing floor. An oil and gas service company, for example, used a digital twin to figure out how much capacity is needed to add to its facilities.

Using the facility's current operations as a basis, capacity requirements were established. The digital twin allowed the organization to assess the impact of increased demand on the facility's service capacity. Various terminal flow topologies were also investigated, resulting in better service quality and increased client satisfaction.

The Digital Model

Digital models are simulations of the environment and people in an area. A digital model is a virtual three-dimensional representation of an object that can be used for simulation and analysis. A digital model is a 3D representation of a product.

Conceptual design, detailed ship design, and manufacturing and construction documentation are all conventional uses of CAD. To evaluate design alternatives and analyze different possibilities, without the need to use actual physical items, it is possible to do using this method. Before any work begins in workshops or on construction sites, equipment, construction materials, and pipe systems need to be modeled, 3D plans reviewed for assembly and building stage readiness, and prices analyzed.

Digital data is transferred to a physical item using this method. Alternatively, the 3D model might be a simpler approximation or a 1-1 detailed model with a substantial quantity of meta-data. The tools and amount of detail required to create such a model are often dictated by the model's intended application. Even a 2D presentation is suitable for a diagram design or stability calculations and assessment. At this point of the project, the intricacies of 3D objects are not necessary. The goal of the digital model determines the level of precision in these circumstances. A simple 3D model for a basic project is commonly used in CAD models for subsequent usage in more thorough design and production planning.

The Digital Shadow

And digital shadows represent virtual copies that we create to interact with other people and environments. 

In the industrial sector, it is common to confuse digital shadows with digital twins. Digital representations of items and processes may be created using both real data and digital representations. The similarities cease there.

For the most part, digital shadows are based on scanned laser data. Furthermore, data flow is a one-way process. Meaning, data can only go from one location to the other. It is possible to make digital shadows of digital twins because they can capture and simplify the multitude of information that passes through a twin at various times of the day.

Using the Oil and Gas company as an example, a digital shadow could be employed to illustrate the application of the planned digital twin to stakeholders. Digital twin application data is sent to non-technical decision-makers by the shadow, who ensures it is semantically appropriate and contextually aware.

The Importance of Digital Twins, Models, and Shadows

Because of the extraordinary insight provided by digital twin technology in terms of both assets and production processes, it is possible to simplify processes and reinvent product creation. Let's look at three major applications of the digital twin, model, and shadow in various industries.

First, equipment health and performance may be assessed holistically, allowing firms to quickly identify abnormalities and irregularities in their operations. Preventative maintenance and restocking of spare parts can be scheduled in advance to reduce downtime and avoid costly asset breakdowns. Product dependability and new income streams from service-based business models are both possible benefits of predictive maintenance for OEMs.

Secondly, an in-depth look at a product's usage patterns, degradation point, workload capacity, and occurrence of errors may be gained through virtual prototypes. Improved component design is possible through better knowing the product's qualities, as well as its failure mechanisms. Customers can also be targeted by OEMs based on their unique use patterns and product implementation scenarios. Virtual prototype development and feature testing based on empirical data are both facilitated by the digital twin technology.

And lastly, a digital footprint integrating sensor and ERP data from a manufacturing line can thoroughly assess crucial KPIs, such as production rates and scrap counts, to plan and optimize the manufacturing process. This aids in determining the core cause of any inefficiencies or throughput losses, optimizing yields, and reducing waste. Taking it a step further, data on equipment, processes, and surroundings may be used to estimate downtime, which helps enhance production planning.

How Are They Useful in Various Industries

A wide range of manufacturing industries is making use of these digitalized principles. For industrial design and concept development, digital models are excellent, while digital shadows are beneficial for tracking production, and a digital twin is a powerful tool for evaluating real-time manufacturing.

Manufacturers may benefit from a powerful digital transformation tool for data-driven analysis when they choose a platform that can give all three of these features. Intelligent platforms for digital twins based on objects employ 3D models to build realistic digital twins that allow for the capturing of digital shadows. It becomes a gateway for continuous analysis of industrial processes, remote monitoring, and a decision-making tool when fully developed digital twins are in place.

Final Thoughts

Digital twins, together with digital models and shadows, are making our manufacturing, and our lives easier. Incorporating digital models and shadows, the digital twin links the whole production process. As a result, production is improved and monitored throughout the manufacturing process by combining these digitalization approaches. This means that production now takes less time, produces less waste, and ultimately, generates a bigger revenue.