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Concurrent Engineering Blog

The difference (and connection) between digital threads and digital twins

Posted by Concurrent Engineering on 13-Mar-2020 14:15:00

Digital Twin and Digital Thread are two concepts that have been around for many years. But the two terms can often cause some confusion.


After all, they have similar names, both are used in the same environment and they appear to be connected.


Today, we’ll look at the specifics of these concepts and consider their use cases.

A super-simple definition

Before we get into the detail, here’s a simple definition of digital twins and digital threads.


Digital Thread:
takes diverse sets of data that are interrelated and unifies them. Think of it as a record of a product’s lifetime from creation to disposal.


Digital Twin:
can only be built after the digital thread is created, and acts as a virtual replica of a physical product, enabling simulations to be carried out before the manufacturing process begins.


There’s your baseline. Now, let’s dig into the detail.


A single source of truth - the digital thread


When it comes to data, a single source of truth is highly desirable. It creates consistency and enables much better collaboration by providing a robust set of data to which different functions can be aligned.


A digital thread creates universal access to datasets and relies on real-time synchronisation to give users the most accurate view of a product’s entire lifecycle - even if it is yet to be built.


Data is sourced from a number of platforms such as CRMs, CAD software, BOM systems and Industrial IoT (IIoT). This gives the digital thread a unique party trick; it can be used throughout organisations - not just within manufacturing software.


However, it’s within manufacturing where digital threads are most useful. By unifying diverse sets of data, they help businesses innovate and differentiate products, increase operational efficiencies and raise productivity.


Try before you manufacture - the digital twin


Digital twins are near-exact replicas of their physical counterpart. However, they’re not restricted to tangible ‘objects’ - they can also be tasks or operational processes.


They’re typically used to better understand how the physical version will react to real-world usage and environmental conditions. Digital twins enable designers to predict how the physical version will behave or react to specific events.


To create this digital representation, digital twins need access to information from multiple data sets - hence the need for the digital thread beforehand.


The type of data a digital twin needs to accurately simulate the behaviour of a physical device, product or process includes sensor data and business system data. If that data is of sufficiently high quality and comes from a diverse range of sources, the digital twin can become incredibly sophisticated.


With digital twins, manufacturers can unlock new insights about products that would previously only have been revealed _after_ the manufacturing process. For instance, if a digital twin is used via augmented reality (AR), service technicians could use the repair process to simultaneously improve QA procedures.


What’s in store for digital threads and digital twins?


There’s no limit to the possibilities offered by digital threads and digital twins. Separate or combined, they help businesses unlock new opportunities and improve productivity.


Augmented reality is likely to become increasingly important as organizations strive to make Digital Thread and Digital Twins a reality.  As AR evolves and becomes more prevalent in manufacturing, it’ll provide a lens through which workers can quickly interpret information delivered by the digital thread and/or digital twin.


If your business is considering using these concepts, just remember that it’s important to start by identifying a project in which they can be easily implemented and have the opportunity to deliver value.


Download the datasheet below to discover more about powering collaboration with augmented reality.

Read the Datasheet