Matthias Volm

4 min reading time

How can we digitally represent the real world? With the help of digital twins.

The one digital twin doesn't exist

Sometimes I get the impression that today is already Eastern, everyone is looking for THE digital twin. How innovative a company seems to be when it has developed the digital twin for a product. But what is it now, this digital twin?

There is no such thing as a digital twin. All descriptions of a physical or virtual object can be understood as digital twins. In the simplest case, it can be a text document describing an object. In more advanced cases, however, digital twins also contain models, simulations and algorithms that help to define the behavior of the real asset.

Using digital twins in tapio

Basically, we view our industry from two perspectives. The first perspective is the view of manufacturers of objects for a product (e.g., machine, tool or material manufacturers). Generally, this is the perspective of our tapio business partners. Today these partners mostly produce physical goods, which are used in the wood industry and are used by their customers. Customers are all those who participate in any way in the value chain from a tree in the forest to the finished piece of furniture, windows, flooring or components for your home. So furniture producers, prefabricated house producers or floor producers. The list goes on forever.

In the first perspective of the partners, the life cycle of a machine, a tool or a consumable is considered. All these partner companies develop their products in their own companies. Machine parts are designed, cutting improved or recipes extended. This process is always carried out in the development department with the help of digital twins. Just think of the CAD drawings, the machining models or even test reports on chemical experiments. All these data can be combined in a digital twin. Within the tapio context, these twins are called "Digital Construction Twins." As soon as the products are developed, these assets are produced. Here we look into the production halls of machine builders, tool manufacturers or edge band producers. During the manufacturing process, parts have to be milled at the right time, basic materials have to be provided, and components have to be assembled correctly. During this process, from logistics, production control to commissioning, information on each product is digitally stored and used. Depending on the degree of digital maturity, we speak here of an industry 4.0 production. We call the stored or generated data in the production process "digital production twin."

After the quality control and dispatch of the product to the customer, the ownership of the digital twin also passes to the customer. For example, the customer receives the machines and uses them in his own furniture production.

Here we change the perspective to the view of our customers (e.g., furniture producers). Because also they always start with the development of their own products like, e.g. a kitchen, a floor or a window. The basic concept of how a product is created is either order-related or produced as a product independently of an order. And here, too, data is generated which is stored in a digital twin. And here, also, we speak of a "digital construction twin," but this belongs in the company of our customer. If the digital construction twin of a furniture manufacturer now finds its way into production, the construction twin also becomes a production twin.

Now the exciting moment comes where the two views of the tapio partner and the customer meet in the customer production: The machine is used to manufacture the product of our customer. Both physical objects, machine, and a piece of furniture have digital twins, and both twins have to be viewed separately from each other. The machine manufacturer would like to get more information about the lifetime of his product, e.g. with the help of the Internet of Things. This is done via the tapio data reference model (tadamo) which we provide for our partners and customers. tadamo has been developed to meet the needs of the wood industry and offers partners and customers the possibility to use the digital twin of machines or tools in the production of the wood industry. We speak here of a "digital performance twins" of an asset.

The actual product of the customer, e.g. an individualized kitchen and its individual components are also accompanied through the production process in digital twins (here again "digital production twins").

Therefore there are always at least 2 digital twins in the production hall of our customers: The digital performance twin of the machine and the digital production twin of the piece of furniture. Both have different properties and goals, but both can be mapped using the tapio data reference model.

As soon as the piece of furniture is sold to the end customer, from the furniture manufacturer's point of view, it again has a digital Performance twin, which describes the life cycle of the piece of furniture at the end customer. This approach is currently still more of a vision, but the Internet of Things can lead us to record the lifespan of our furniture with the help of sensors, or the pieces of furniture themselves can become increasingly intelligent. Just think of the slatted frame in bed, which is able to change the headrest setting with the help of a smartphone app.

Digital twins are basically to be seen as the foundation for meaningful use of the IoT. Also, the information from digital twins is used to implement real industry 4.0 applications. tapio offers a comprehensive approach with the help of tadamo to describe the wood industry in a sufficient and deliberately incomplete form. Furniture manufacturers, as well as machine, tool, and material manufacturers use tadamo to implement their approaches for a digital wood industry.