As markets continue to grow more competitive, the speed at which companies can get their product to market faster than the competition is making or breaking businesses all over the world.
Thanks to the digital twin, companies can enable a fully digital enterprise and get to the market faster and more easily than the competition. The digital twin is a major reason why their business is doing well now and will continue to do so in the future.
Aerospace and defense companies are seeing the advantages of the digital twin to get ahead of the competition, but also to ensure their products are safe and have a long life, says Dave Riemer, Vice President of Aerospace and Defense Strategy at Siemens PLM Software.
I recently spoke with Riemer, who has more than 35 years of experience in the aerospace and defense industry. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
“For aerospace and defense, everything we make, somebody’s life depends on it.”
Whether it’s a commercial plane, a fighter plane or rockets to go to a space station, a person’s life depends on getting the product right, Riemer says.
In the aerospace and defense industry, the digital twin gives companies the ability to verify their products and process performance before ever committing to building hardware.
Because it includes a virtual representation of the physical world, aerospace and defense companies now have the means to verify earlier in the process and impact the product and plant design at a faster, affordable pace.
For decades, the digital twin has been used for only products, especially for running simulations of the product. But in the aerospace industry, Riemer sees an opportunity to improve the way the digital twin is used for simulating the manufacturing process in the near future.
“Every time we make a change that affects [the product], we need to be able to take the last digital twin representation, update it to a new version, run those analyses and simulations and demonstrate that the component is acceptable.”
Riemer notes that aerospace is a highly regulated industry, and one unique challenge the aerospace and defense industry faces is product certification. Every product must be certified and must always meet specific requirements from regulatory agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Every time a change is made that will affect fit, form or function, those regulatory agencies must certify that change.
Nuclear power has similar processes, and some devices in the medical field face similar scrutiny from the Federal Drug Administration, but Riemer noted few industries must get every change certified as they do in aerospace. And each change requires the same level as certification as the original product.
The digital twin in Siemens PLM Software’s portfolio makes this possible, he noted. The digital twin allows companies to find the last product representation, update, analyze, simulate and test it and show regulatory agencies like the FAA that the component is safe.
“In the next decade, the digital twin will be a complete digital representation, but it will also have this information connected together.”
The digital twin is particularly important in the aerospace and defense industry because of how long products last.
“The B-52 bomber will be 90 years old when it goes out of service, for example,” Riemer notes. “They [products] last for decades. 30 to 40 years is not uncommon.” This sets the aerospace and defense industry apart from others because you typically “don’t have cars, cell phones or refrigerators that last that long.”
Because companies must maintain aerospace products for decades, that means being able to maintain the digital information of that product today and decades from now. That information should include the production of the product itself, but also how it performs in the field, its maintenance and a safe manufacturing process so the plant is suitable for employees.
The digital twin makes all of this possible because it can be more than a digital representation of the product. The digital thread in the digital twin can have information from the product’s performance to feed manufacturing requirements, features in a design and inspection points on the shop floor.
Riemer observes that “the greatest strength we have is the ability to connect all of that information.”
One of the capabilities Siemens PLM Software focuses on is the ability to take all of the design data from any version of NX and still be able to read it 10, 20 and even 30 years from now, he added.
Siemens PLM Software recognizes how important the digital twin is and continues to invest in areas that support it, and Riemer points out that the recent acquisitions of LMS and CD-adapco show the company’s continued investment in the digital twin.
Dave Riemer is the Vice President of Aerospace and Defense Strategy at Siemens PLM Software. He was a presenter at the Digital Twin Summit, where he detailed the digital twin’s importance to the aerospace and defense industry.
The event detailed how to bring digital product development and manufacturing together and included presentations on the digital twin’s virtual and real sides, its application in industries and live demonstrations. Click here to read the recap of the summit.
About the author
Toni Boger is the editor-in-chief of Digital Transformations, the Thought Leadership blog for Siemens PLM Software. As the marketing coordinator and content strategist for the Siemens PLM Thought Leadership initiative, she oversees the content creation, management, publication and promotion for all content in the initiative. She graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and English. Prior to joining Siemens, Toni worked as an associate site editor for TechTarget, a technology media company.