Virtual Realities: how can digital twin technology turn manufacturing green?
By using virtual twin technology, manufacturers can evaluate risks earlier to ensure better yield, reduce waste and trim costs
The road to a successful product, from conception to manufacturing, can be fraught with costly, time-consuming pitfalls. What if all the flaws and potential waste that only become evident during or after manufacturing could be identified at the earliest stages of the process? Virtual twin technology can do just that. Developing and building an accurate digital version of a product and the operational assets that create the product can have a huge positive impact on the success of manufacturing processes, effectiveness and viability because it allows companies to investigate options and gain knowledge into the repercussions of every action before committing to actual operations.
By creating visibility of the entire lifecycle of the asset, digital twin technology is proving to be a valuable tool in enabling a more sustainable focus in manufacturing because it can pinpoint issues and enable corrective action to be taken at the design stage, so reducing waste and improving energy use. “3D modelling plays an important role in optimisation,” says Prashanth Mysore, Dassault Systèmes Global Strategic Business Development Director. “Modelling, manpower, machineries, materials, methodology and measurement can all be validated virtually, and therefore optimised, from the beginning of the process.” At a time of economic turbulence, digital replicas can support companies to become more cost-efficient and resilient when it matters most.
According to research by the United Nations in collaboration with Accenture, a staggering 99 per cent of CEOs from companies with more than €1 billion in annual revenue believe that sustainability will be important in the future success of their business1. The move towards a circular economy in the manufacturing industry is a key driver for companies who are increasingly building their identity on sustainable foundations, and it is more pressing than ever to find a way to stay competitive while reducing emissions to meet climate change targets.
Increasingly, businesses are finding that advanced technology such as virtual simulation is giving them an edge on this road to sustainability. Responsible and efficient waste management is a cornerstone of lean, circular manufacturing. Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE® platform enables customers to leverage a virtual twin experience. Through the creation of an executable digital copy, it reduces the need for expensive and labour-intensive special assembly lines to test innovation.
3DEXPERIENCE solutions are an effective way of keeping operations lean and running smoothly. A digital twin can be made to simulate human interaction with machines, in, for example, equipment or product loading operations. In this case, it can analyse the optimum balance between work and automation to determine future expenditure on equipment. This technology also increases the visibility of the processes involved in the manufacture of a product, highlighting risks, and ultimately reducing scrap waste.
Canadian industrial automation process and technology company CenterLine (Windsor) Limited found that it was taking valuable time and expense to fix design errors after deploying complex machinery on its factory floor. CenterLine started using Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE solutions, which virtually simulated products, processes and factory operations to streamline its robots’ movements, flow and layout. The result was transformative. The technology allowed the company to reduce tooling-related issues by up to 90 per cent and programming time on the factory floor by as much as 75 per cent. “It has really helped us when designing pieces of equipment to simulate the assembly in a virtual setting and really anticipate any type of problems that we could run into when selling the equipment and programming the robots,” says Marc Levesque, CenterLine’s Director of Corporate Marketing. “It really gives us a leg up before we put the steel to the floor.”
Platforms such as Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE are an effective way for companies to inject sustainability right into the core of their business, and bring strategy, design and production together in one place. It also offers extra security to companies operating in hazardous locations such as nuclear power plants or mines, where workers can be trained – and risks mitigated – through virtual simulation. “By bringing 3DEXPERIENCE in at the early stages, operational difficulties and safety issues can be predicted virtually,” Dassault Systèmes’ Mysore explains. “Looking to the future, safety is paramount in all operations, and governs most manufacturing processes.”
The move away from the physical production line and into the virtual factory allows companies to see the projected use and outcomes of their products in real time and view every ‘what-if’ result, supporting better decision making and greater insight. “The virtual experience offers businesses resilience,” adds Mysore. “Take the pandemic, for example, the shock of it for many companies showed them that they can’t put all their eggs in one basket. There has to be flexibility and agility for business continuity. Manufacturers must prepare themselves for future disruption by deploying sustainability concepts.”