What is Virtual Commissioning? What is a Digital Twin?
These are questions I often get in the field. The truth is there are many interpretations and opinions. I’m talking from my perspective.
Vintecc is an expert in Virtual Commissioning and building Digital Twins. For this Vintecc developed its own simulation framework and offers “Simulation as a service”. This means we build your virtual prototype which can be used for Virtual Commissioning or as a Digital Twin.
There is a blurry line between the terms Digital Twins and Virtual Commissioning and that’s why in this blog I’ll try to explain 4 main differences.
What is a Digital Twin?
Following the definition of Wikipedia: “A Digital Twin is a virtual representation that serves as the real-time digital counterpart of a physical object or process.”
In the world we operate, the digital twin is a virtual copy of a machine, a part of that machine or even a complete production process.
As an example you see here a virtual copy of a tractor which is using LiDAR technology for autonomous driving.
What is Virtual Commissioning?
Virtual commissioning is the process of creating and analyzing a digital prototype of a physical model to predict its performance in the real world. This means you will test the behaviour before physical commissioning.
The following video shows some examples of how you can test real software on a virtual model
These are typical examples of 3D simulations, but also 1D simulations exist. This depends on the usecase. What’s the difference?
The main difference is that 3D simulations show the interaction of individual components with their surroundings both in space and time, whereas 1D simulations mainly focus on modelling process dynamics in time.
4 differences between Digital Twins and Virtual Commissioning
There is a blurry line between Digital Twins and Virtual Commissioning and many definitions and interpretations exist. One thing they have in common, they both use simulation technology. I’m defining these concepts as follows:
- Virtual commissioning is the simulation of a production system to develop and test the behavior of that system before it is physically commissioned. It is split into three iterative stages, MiL, SiL, and HiL, where a virtual representation of the production system is eventually tested with a real PLC or HMI in this last stage.
- A Digital Twin captures sensor data from a production system and feeds that information into the simulation in real-time to copy the operation of the system in a virtual world. Finally you want to use this to proactively optimize the machine or production line and avoid unscheduled downtime.
Then we could highlight 4 big differences:
1. The Usage
Virtual Commissioning is used more often in a development phase, while a Digital Twin is more often used in an operational phase.
2. The Machine
In the case of Virtual Commissioning the machine doesn’t exist yet (this is not a rule, but in a development phase often the physical prototype doesn’t exist yet). In the case of a Digital Twin however, the machine already exists and is operational as it is fed by real data.
3. The data
While a Digital Twin uses real data from the machine, Virtual Commissioning simulates this data. (virtual sensors, interactions/collisions with objects, drive simulation,…)
4. The Goals
The goal of Virtual Commissioning is to test different iterations of machines software and design configurations or to test “what-if” scenario’s with the final goal to verify and check the design assumptions.
The goal of a Digital Twin is to inspect your machine remotely and to predict how it will perform.
The physical commissioning of the system, when sensors are placed in the production system to capture real-time data, is the bridge between the Virtual Commissioning and Digital Twin processes.
Using our Digital Twin framework and platform, we can easily create a Digital Twin or virtual prototype on demand and make simulation accessible to everyone. No simulation skills required or a big investment in a simulation tool.