A digital twin is an identical, virtual representation of a real-world physical object, such as a piece of machinery. It’s used to catalog the object’s properties, dimensions, and components; to predict its behavior under a variety of conditions; and aid with the manufacture, repair, or replacement of that object. In this extensive article in All 3D Pro you will learn how digital twins are changing 3D manufacturing and how to get started with the technology today.
Why Use a Digital Twin?
A digital twin of an object is far more than a computer-aided design (CAD) model. A digital twin is the CAD model plus lots of data, including simulation data, manufacturing data, and often feedback on the product’s performance over time. Any data relating to a product or a part can be folded into its digital twin.
Using software, such as Netfabb and Siemens NX, manufacturers can carry out simulations and tests on the digital twin and eliminate the need for multiple physical prototypes. Using sensor data, manufacturers can track and trace the conditions inside the 3D printer making a part. With every new layer and source of data, the digital twin becomes more complete.
Specifically for 3D printing, simulation data can help solve problems in additive manufacturing with consistency and anticipate problems that could appear from anomalies, such as focal melting of individually printed layers. Simulations can help predict issues with deformation, temperature distribution, recoater interference, and other thermo-mechanical phenomena. Having detailed data on print failures can aid in ensuring manufacturing consistency part after part, while being able to observe the fabrication process digitally first helps reduce the number of print failures and defects due to geometric issues.
Virtual twins also can boost design efficiency because they enable developers to try out and compare more configurations than would be possible with physical models. This enables designers and engineers to validate and optimize an object’s design before investing in the materials required to produce a physical prototype.
Although this sounds like ideal for rocket engine parts and automobiles – which it’s commonly applied to – the use of digital twins is also gaining ground (albeit slowly) in all types of manufacturing. Let’s take a look at how a digital twin coupled with additive manufacturing can give your company an edge.
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