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€20m EU project will create digital twin platform for industry

18 October, 2019

Researchers across Europe have embarked on a €20m, three-year project to build a flexible platform for creating digital twins for industrial plants. Funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the IoTwins project will experiment with new technologies for digitising industrial processes and products, with 12 testbeds that will create “digital twins” – virtual copies of industrial processes that can be used to test plants and infrastructure management tools in advance.

By collecting large amounts of data, digital twins can simulate scenarios to define corrective actions, optimise efficiency, and diagnose problems before they become serious.

The project is being coordinated by the Italian power transmission manufacturer Bonfiglioli Riduttori. The other 23 participants, from eight countries, include Siemens, Thales, the Fraunhofer Institute in Munich and the Barcelona Football Club (one of the testbeds will use a smart grid to optimise the use of electricity at the Barcelona stadium).

The aim is to build a reference architecture for developing and deploying distributed and edge-enabled digital twins of production plants and processes. The twins will collect data from operating and maintenance environments, and use this to create models of assets, systems or processes. These models will then be used to detect and diagnose anomalies, and to determine actions to maximise KPIs.

The platform will be evaluate, virtually, the advantages and disadvantages of industrial processes that will be then applied to production. The tools that emerge are intended to be suitable for use by small and medium-sized enterprises.

Four of the 12 testbeds will be involve predictive diagnostics in applications including wind turbines, machine tools producing automotive components, and machines that make bottle caps. Another three testbeds will focus on the management of infrastructures, including smart grids and supercomputing systems.

The remaining five testbeds will cover the replicability and standardisation of previous models to define new areas of application and develop innovative business models in manufacturing and infrastructure management.

The €20m IoTwins project is bringing together researchers from eight countries across Europe to develop digital twin technologies for industrial plants

The project envisages a hierarchical organisation of digital twins for different environments, with varying levels of accuracy:

•  IoT twins will be based on lightweight models of components performing big-data processing and local control, with low latency and high reliability;

•  Edge twins will be deployed at plant gateways and/or at multi-access edge computing nodes, providing higher-level controls and orchestrating IoT sensors and actuators; and

•  Cloud twins will perform time-consuming, and typically off-line, parallel simulation and deep-learning, feeding edge twins with predictive models to be executed in production plants for monitoring/control/tuning purposes.

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