Your mind might turn to science fiction when you hear the term “digital twin,” or maybe to online scammers digitally cloning your credit cards and all your other personally identifiable information.
The reality is a little more mundane—but if you’re in the automotive world, quite a bit more profound. Digital twin technology is one of the most significant disruptors of global manufacturing seen this century, and the automobile industry is embracing it in a big way. Roughly three-quarters of auto manufacturers are using digital twins as part of their vehicle development process, evolving not only how they design and develop new cars but also the way they monitor them, fix them, and even build them.
But what are digital twins? How are they created? And where do they live? Let’s dig into the details.
What Is Digital Twin Technology?
At its core, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical object, a simulated clone living in the memory or storage of a computer. Digital twins can be simple or complicated, abstract or detailed, but here, we’re going to focus on digital twins of the more detailed variety.
Let’s start with something simple, like a tire. A tire’s digital twin would start with a 3D model representing its shape, including its exact dimensions. But that’s just the beginning. That representation would also contain its weight and details about its tread compound.
If we’re talking about an advanced digital twin, that virtual tire would even contain enough information for a manufacturer to load it into a simulator and drive on it, calculating things like load ratings and flex at different inflation pressures and under vehicle loads.
Other components, like suspension links or chassis subframes, can likewise be represented and even virtually assembled. Combine enough digital twins together, and you create a digital twin of a complete car, a virtual doppelganger for the real thing that is not only exact down to a fraction of a millimeter but also full of enough information to enable everything from software development to crash testing in a virtual world.
The Benefit Of Digital Twin Technology Is In The Sharing
We know what you’re probably thinking: Driving simulators and virtual crash testing have been around for decades. So how is this new? A big part of this technology is the ability to create a digital representation of an object or a system once then reuse it in multiple places.