Digital Twin Technology


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In April 1970, NASA sent astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise on America's third landing mission to the moon. Two days into the flight, and more than 200,000 miles from earth, disaster struck Apollo 13: an explosion rocked the spaceship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. "Houston, we have problem," were the famous words that the crew radioed to mission control immediately after they heard the loud bang. NASA’s engineers solved the problem by constructing a twin of the component they were trying to fix, using only physical parts that the astronauts in the capsule had available to them. While there was nothing digital about the process, mirrored systems became the precursor of digital twins. And nearly 50 years later, this technology allows many industries to understand and manage the operations of their remote machines and assets.

Down to Earth

A digital twin is a virtual model of a physical asset, process, or system. As conditions change, the digital twin reports those changes in real-time, whether it is a bearing in a roller mill, a chain in a bucket elevator, or a cement truck stuck in traffic. Combining the virtual and physical world allows cement producers to avoid problems before they occur, prevent downtime, and even plan the next steps using simulations. The ultimate goal is to have a digital twin running for every real-world asset in the field, with the digital replica updating its status as it receives operational data. Apollo-era data acquisition technologies got mankind to the moon, and back, nine times. But sensors have advanced dramatically since then and with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) they have become connected too. Computing has emerged as a cheap and abundant resource that can be deployed against any problem, making large-scale digital twin modelling cost-effective for a wide range of applications. ... 

This article was published in the December issue of World Cement in 2018.

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