Until now, in order to produce real products, they had to be developed in 3D CAD systems. Drawings were deducted from the CAD models, by which the components were produced or purchased.

Today, it is also requested that every component is clearly described and classified in its characteristics and its impacts, i. e. on the environment. In certain industries, products have to be certified extensively in order to be permitted for sale.

In the future, products are also supposed to be extended for the Internet of Things. This can apply to the monitoring, remote control, analysis or the calculation of the product performance. For example, it can concern the remote control of a wind energy plant, its maintenance or the calculation of the generated power.

The Digital Twin

In order for this to work, products need to be equipped with additional sensor technology, control systems and connectivity. So, when we are talking about the Digital Twin (virtual product), all product-describing characteristics need to be defined in detail. As different disciplines are affected, everyone has to work in his or her own specialized authoring system. The engineer with the mechanical CAD system, the electrical engineer with the ECAD system, but also the buyer with the ERP system. The product structure defines all components that make up the product. Every part brings its specific data into the product structure. Thus, the digital twin originates from different systems. Until the launch of the product on the market, the product goes through many change cycles that have to be reproduced in the essential systems like the Windchill (PDM) and the ERP systems.

When the product is manufactured, the latest status of the Digital Twin (as built) has to be frozen at least in the PDM system, but in general also in the ERP system, so that the delivered product structure is known exactly. As a result, the data that is sent by the product can be assigned clearly and processed further. If, for instance, a sensor in a gearing mechanism, signals that the oil level is low, then the service engineer needs a precise description of the gearing mechanism to refill the oil.

After the delivery, based on the reported problems from the field, product changes may become necessary that need to be taken into account for future versions.

Linking Systems and Platforms

For making a digital twin possible, it is imperative to link the PDM system, the ERP system and the IoT platforms in such a way that a consistent product structure can be used for data management anytime. With PTC's Windchill, the customer can link all the important technical authoring systems (MCAD, ECAD, software). In order to facilitate the creation and connection of commercial and logistical data with the digital twin, Windchill needs to be linked directly with the ERP system.

Innoface is specialized particularly in this field and offers interface products for different ERP systems. In the future, further interfaces will be necessary in order to integrate the IoT platform ThingWorx as well. Innoface will expand its existing integration competence in the future to cover the additional requirements resulting from the IoT enabled products.

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