Industry Insight: Virtual Twin Technology and Aerospace & Defense

Resiliency is critical in these disruptive times to not only be able to weather disruptions but to also ensure business continuity and efficient operations, even when demand is constrained. A&D leaders and manufacturers can achieve this by digitalizing their operations and leveraging a virtual twin solution that enables them to visualize the perfect plans for new products, facilities and production processes in order to run optimized operations.  

By now, it is becoming clearer to many in the industry that the path to resiliency and future-proofing operations relies on digital transformation, and that extends to transforming operations to become more virtual. 

What is Virtual Twin Technology?

Virtual twin technology expands on the technology of the digital twin, employing virtual modeling, simulation, and optimization capabilities. Unlike digital twins, virtual twins are dynamic, connected models of products, facilities, resources, and people that allow organizations to apply real-world, real-time information and can be used in multiple different contexts.  

The goal of a virtual twin is to create a perfect, or near-perfect virtual model of a physical asset, with minimal risk in the real world. This enables companies to seamlessly introduce new manufacturing models and operational processes and create new products at an unprecedented rate, rapidly improving the ability to innovate.

How is Virtual Twin Technology being used throughout Aerospace and Defense?

Aerospace and defense companies use virtual twin technologies to optimize and improve the design and production of aeroplanes, weapon systems, and other complex products. Using virtual twin technology allows companies to simulate and test the functionality of their products in a virtual environment prior to their build, allowing them to detect and address possible flaws at an earlier stage. This virtual twin technology can also be used to optimize and improve the design and manufacturing of products, monitor, and maintain equipment, as well as to innovate and test new technologies.  

Key Benefits of Virtual Twins for Aerospace and Defense Organizations: 

  • UNLIMITED SIMULATION: A&D manufacturers lack the time and resources to experiment and find optimal facility layouts and processes when restricted to using older, established methods with a limited ability to improve them. The virtual twin, or what Dassault Systèmes calls the Virtual Twin Experience, allows such experimentation to take place digitally and determine the best configuration before spending precious time and resources changing real-world operations.  
  • CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: The Virtual Twin Experience enables a closed-loop connection between the virtual and real world, allowing simulated plans to be immediately and confidently executed. At the same time, real-time updates are captured from manufacturing to inform the Virtual Twin Experience, allowing it to continuously refine and optimize processes for a longer-term strategy.  
  • IMPROVED HUMAN FACTORS: Workplace safety is paramount, but some unsafe working conditions may not be immediately apparent until an incident takes place. With real-world data input, the Virtual Twin Experience can simulate worker operations in a facility and address safety concerns, such as identifying assembly tasks that could create repetitive strain injuries or creating social distancing measures. 
  • ADDED AGILITY: A&D manufacturers struggle with suppressed margins due to competitive pressures while working with complex production runs, making downtime costly when configuring an assembly line. The Virtual Twin Experience helps A&D manufacturers be more flexible by simulating operations ahead of time and identifying the quickest and most cost-efficient way to do so, minimizing downtime. 
  • GLOBAL COLLABORATION: There are often digital “divides” between engineering and manufacturing departments that result in lost time and quality. The cloud-based Virtual Twin Experience enables stakeholders to share detailed information and unified 3D models that allow collaboration and input from all departments for optimal operations. Simulations in the Virtual Twin Experience even calculate how external factors affect the production process, improving its accuracy in optimized configurations.  
  • IoT INTEGRATION: Most modern production equipment is sensor-driven and generates large quantities of real-time data—much of which is used for quality control and production monitoring. The level of integration that is now possible with the Virtual Twin Experience makes modern factory operations fully transparent to engineers and managers, allowing greater optimization.  

Webinar: Virtual Twins for Aerospace and Defense – Everything you need to know