Today, a lot of attention is directed to the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and the Digital Twin. These buzzwords describe interesting concepts for our everyday life and for the control of processes in industries. But when you want to connect them with material that changes its state, things become really complicated.
I will focus in this article on the metallurgical industry. Of course, the concepts are the same in other manufacturing industries like foundries, cement, glass or plastic industries and can also be translated to energy conversion industries or even climate research that needs a digital twin of the earth.
Before we discuss what it needs to make a digital twin, I want to introduce an important factor in all of this: the engineer!
The engineer’s job in a metallurgical plant is well described by the following picture:
In the picture, the boy on the rope is the material and the engineer is depicted by the hand while the rope is the metallurgical aggregate.
A philosopher would call this an ontological description, the description that focusses on what exists in the metallurgical plant. A digital twin that is designed in this spirit will focus on the state of the aggregate, that means temperature, time, impulse given to the system by stirring or blowing and the oxygen partial pressure:
Another viewpoint on this would be a teleological, purpose-centered interpretation. In this interpretation, the boy still is the material and the engineer is depicted by the hand. But the rope now is the energy landscape on which the material can move – and on which the engineer will try to move the material into the desired direction!
In this picture, there are now several ropes to depict the energy of the different phases. The engineer does not change temperature or the oxygen partial pressure as an end in itself, but to transfer (part of the) material from one phase to another.
A digital twin that has the purpose to describe how a material will transform in a metallurgical aggregate, therefore, needs both the ontological and the teleological description. The latter is the information on the Gibbs energy landscape – and this is our expertise. I am looking forward to the next years where I expect the Equilibrium of Things to enter into more and more industries – maybe not as a buzzword, but as a connection to reality!
Original artwork by user OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay.