The benefit of the digital twin: beyond CNC simulation
Digital twins optimize processes throughout the entire machine life cycle
Should a digital twin be created for a machine tool? There is really no doubt that such an investment pays off. Because one thing is clear, the digital twin makes a major contribution toward optimizing many types of processes both during the engineering, and later when the machine is in operation. Combined with the right business model, the digital twin enables machine manufacturers to generate extra business in conjunction with their machine tools. Below is a demonstration of several scenarios where the digital twin of a machine tool offers substantial added value.
Two heads are better than oneFor one thing, digital twins of machine tools make a major contribution toward optimizing the engineering process of the machine manufacturer. This is because the digital twin helps machine manufacturers perform process steps simultaneously, which previously had to be performed one after the other. This can substantially speed up the overall process. Quite specifically, this concerns the use of digital twins in the mechanical development of a machine, the engineering of the automation, and in the testing and acceptance processes.
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An example of the optimization of the engineering process
The engineering of the automation can be started with a digital twin before the real prototype of a machine becomes available.
This not only saves an enormous amount of time – important insights can also be gained from the virtual engineering, which then flow back into the mechanical design.
This can markedly reduce investments in expensive, real prototypes of the machine, if not eliminate them completely.
An example of the optimization of the sales process
Before buying, many machine operators would like to see a demonstration of the desired machine, or at least a comparable type of machine. In reality, this is often not possible, especially in the case of special machines and machines which are offered in many different versions.
This is where the digital twin of the machine in a "virtual showroom" helps smooth the last step before the conclusion of the contract.
In the virtual showrooms, the machine manufacturer can offer advice, and machine operators can reassure themselves of their purchasing decisions.
An example of the optimization of the machine acceptance process
Many machine tools are, at least in part, developed to meet the wishes of the operator.
These customized adaptations are certainly agreed in advance. Nevertheless, there is still a risk that the concrete solutions will not exactly meet the expectations of the operator.
This usually does not become evident until it is time for the machine to be accepted at the installation site. A preliminary acceptance of the machine on the basis of a digital twin is therefore the ideal solution to minimize the financial risks of the machine manufacturer.
Meeting delivery dates also benefits the operator, especially if the production of workpieces on the machine is linked to specific delivery dates.
An example of the optimization of a business model
A machine tool is most productive when it is producing chips. All activities that lead to unproductive machine times should therefore be systematically transferred to the CNC production planning.
Here again a digital twin is the ideal aid: Whether or not certain components can be manufactured can be found out without stopping the machine. CNC programs can be checked in advance for possible collisions between the tool and the clamping device or parts of the machine. CNC programs for new production orders can be executed offline while the machine is still in operation.
Last but not least, new operators can be trained without blocking the machine. A digital twin is not only a means of increasing the availability of a machine, but may also function as a supplementary product to the machine tool, allowing the manufacturer to translate the benefit to the operator into additional business.
Digital twins provide an optimal basis for machine manufacturers to create additional value – both for their own companies and for their customers. Alongside many concrete individual benefits, digital twins also help strengthen the image of machine tool manufacturers, providing their customers with a digital twin alongside the real machine, radiates competence, reliability, confidence and innovative strength. Digital twins are therefore a powerful marketing message for machine manufacturers.
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