Over the past few years, the digital twin (DT) has gained popularity. Yet, DT has different meanings for different vendors and, as a result, manufacturers are still trying to understand its usefulness. Will Siemens’ executable digital twin (xDT) prove to be any different?

Baselining the  Digital Twin

The DT is a digital representation of a physical product. But the contents of this representation may differ, depending on who you are talking to. Some say it’s simply a collection of sensor data. Others associate DT with only simulation models. But, formally, a DT should contain some combination of models—computer-aided design (CAD), simulation, etc.—as well as additional information about requirements, the product definition, and maintenance schedules. The DT should also contain essential information like operating and test data.

Having all of that information is important, as the DT’s role is to predict the performance of the physical asset. These predictions can then be leveraged to improve the durability, life, or operating costs of the associated product. For example, a wind turbine is a physical asset. Its digital twin contains the CAD models, simulation models for more critical components like the blade and generator, and other essential information like maintenance and part replacement schedules. It would also include data about the physical asset, like wind speed, wind pattern, and the electricity generated.

Flaws in Digital Twins

While DTs are quite valuable, they introduce some challenges. The first? How to harness the resulting deluge of data to make good predictions. Also, simulation models are often siloed, meaning they cannot be used by someone outside the development team. And the models transfer poorly across domains. 

DTs can be slow to respond, too. Imagine running a simulation based on a new wind speed or wind pattern when you need the results to make operating decisions. Most complex simulations used in many DTs can take quite some time to solve, perhaps hours, days, or more. In those circumstances, you are stuck—you can’t use the DT to drive applications or make real-time decisions. There is always a lag. Finally, there are also issues with data and intellectual property (IP) concerns. You can’t share the DT outside of the organization and, as a consequence, consumption of the DT is often limited to only its creator.

Siemens’ xDT addresses many of these limitations. The xDT is executable, so it can be used by the creator and others, including customers. It is also fast and secure. This post introduces the concept of the Siemens’ xDT, highlights its advantages, and identifies those who will benefit most from its use.

What is Siemens’ Executable Digital Twin?

The xDT expands the usefulness of the traditional DT. As the name implies, this digital representation is like an executable piece of software—a version where the digital twin is encapsulated as a stand-alone execution engine. The xDT is a reduced order model (ROM) based on simulation as its core engine. This feature runs fast, supporting the ability to make real-time decisions. These models can be used by non-experts, or even by a machine when put into autonomous mode. And, finally, xDTs are lightweight and can be installed on the edge, in the cloud, or on-premise. 

With these advantages, it is easy to see why the xDT is an attractive enabler for digital transformation initiatives. It builds upon the benefits of the traditional DT, while addressing its limitations. Next, let’s discuss some of the xDT’s key characteristics.

Characteristics of an Executable Digital Twin

Siemens’ xDT is accurate, reliable, and fast. Simulation models, traditionally, provide accurate, actionable information but run quite slowly. Siemens’ xDT speeds up simulation using a ROM without sacrificing accuracy. It is validated and reliable. Thus, Siemens’ xDT can gain the trust of non-experts, like, for example, maintenance technicians outside of research and development (R&D), so they can also use it to make decisions. 

Siemens’ xDT is easy to create from Simcenter and other applicable Siemens’ softwares. It boasts a simple user interface so it can be used by experts and non-experts alike. It’s portable and can be readily installed at customer sites, remote locations, in the cloud, or on the edge, as needed. Because Siemens’ xDT is synchronous with the real-world physical asset, it can be updated remotely when needed. That connectivity helps to ensure that organizations are working with the most accurate and up-to-date information. Finally, Siemens’ xDT is secure. Because Siemens’ xDT is a black box, it handles IP security issues well without compromising its usefulness.

Given these characteristics, the question now becomes: What do organizations gain from using Siemens’ xDT, and what type of companies can benefit most from using them?

Advantages of Siemens’ Executable Digital Twin

Siemens’ xDT builds on the usefulness of traditional DTs, addressing many of their limitations. To start, Siemens’ xDT democratizes the use of the DT so that it can be shared outside of the old siloes. The creator and the consumer of the digital twin are separated, thereby making it more useful for others across the enterprise. For example, departments outside of R&D can reuse simulation models created by R&D for their own needs.

Edge computing enables real-time and automated decision-making by drastically reducing the latency in connectivity. When Siemens’ xDT is installed on the edge, it can aid in real-time advanced monitoring and diagnostics, as well as predictive maintenance and optimization of performance. 

Finally, Siemens’ xDT is validated using extensive simulation of a variety of different what-if scenarios. This gives users great confidence that any predictions made by Siemens’ xDT are sound and reliable.

Who Can Benefit from Siemens’ Executable Digital Twin?

While there has been widespread interest in DTs across manufacturing, certain organizations may benefit more than others from investment in Siemens’ xDT. Companies interested in predicting the performance of their products to gain business value throughout the product lifecycle can deploy this technology and then distribute it to their customers without having to worry about the security of their IP.  When Siemens’ xDT is installed on the edge, it enables decision-making in real-time. Organizations that develop products requiring real-time decision-making to function reliably will benefit. Siemens’ xDT speeds up the response of critical safety devices, too. This can help safety engineers do their job, especially in instances where a quick response is the name of the game. 

Like any transformative technology, companies can initially deploy Siemens’ xDT in areas with a critical need to obtain maximum return on investment. As they see Siemens’ xDT’s value, they can then expand its use to other areas.

Summary and Takeaways

Siemens’ xDT offers significant advantages over traditional DTs, which are limited by a lack of speed, detail, and democratization. Like the DT, Siemens’ xDT provides manufacturing organizations a connected, digital representation of a physical asset they can leverage throughout the entire product lifecycle. But Siemens’ xDT’s addition of edge computing capabilities and a secure, easy-to-use interface means that organizations that seek accurate, real-time feedback for decision-making will see significant gains with its use.