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COMSOL Blog (Ed Fontes): Digital Twins: Not Just Hype

COMSOL Blog: "Is the term “digital twin” just hype, or a trick to get a new angle to sell modeling software? In this blog post, we discuss the difference between models, applications, and digital twins. We conclude that although the term has been misused to a certain extent (in relation to the original formulation), there is substance behind it."

What Is a Digital Twin?

One of the first industries to consider the use of digital twins is the aerospace industry. In a very insightful paper, Glaessgen and Stargel explain the use of digital twins for vehicle certification and fleet management. The digital twin for a vehicle would be used to “continuously forecast the health of the vehicle or system, the remaining useful life, and the probability of mission success.” The description of the digital twin is the following: “A digital twin is an integrated multiphysics, multiscale, probabilistic simulation of an as-built vehicle or system that uses the best available physical models, sensor updates, fleet history, etc., to mirror the life of its corresponding flying twin.”

The term “digital twin” was coined by Michael Grieves at the University of Michigan in 2011.  The concept had already been formulated by Grieves in 2002, but was then referred to as a “mirrored spaces model.” In Grieves’s definition, the digital twin concept consists of a real space and a virtual space. The virtual space contains all of the information gathered from the real space. It also contains a high-fidelity description of the physical device or process from the microscopic level to the geometric, macroscopic level. The description provided by the digital twin should be “virtually indistinguishable from its physical counterpart.”

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