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28 August 2023

How Digital Twins are Changing the Aerospace Industry

By Bobby Carlton
Digital Twins Aerospace

In aerospace, digital twins help develop new propulsion systems and aircraft, reducing certification timelines. However there are some challenges.

Threads and digital twins revolve around maintaining geometric representations of data points tied to the behavior and physical attributes of a given model. This involves accurately measuring a physical twin. According to Franz Hemli, Bruker Alicona‘s R&D director, a digital twin can be formed by combining measurement instrument data with a CAD model of the measured part.

For aerospace OEMs (original equipment manufacturer), metrology equipment serves to validate dimensions and assist assembly. This same data can create digital twins, enhancing information value. Digital twins aid OEMs in identifying issues early, boosting manufacturing efficiency by comparing part dimensions with originals, and enabling feedback loops to trigger alerts in case of errors.


Virtual assembly using digital twins proves crucial for preemptively addressing issues in joining processes, potentially saving time and resources. These techniques can slash assembly time by up to 50% and foster improved component design through integrated cloud-sharing of manufacturing data.

While digital twin adoption varies in the aerospace sector, its potential to reduce time-to-market and physical testing costs is highly advantageous. Enhanced accuracy, powered by improved computing and robotic systems, allows precise virtual models of products. Rather than traditional CAD models, digital twins now capture real-world products accurately.

Mark Woods, Center for Modelling and Simulation chief strategy officer, told Aerospace Testing International that different digital twins with varying levels of fidelity exist, and their utility evolves over the testing lifecycle. Aligning digital twin requirements with testing phases prevents redundant physical tests. Collaboration between development teams, test engineers, and specialists optimizes digital twin usage, enhancing testing efficiency and freeing skilled engineers for more in-depth testing.

The oil and gas industry demonstrates how digital twins can retain institutional knowledge, offering continued access after employee retirements. In aerospace, digital twins help develop new propulsion systems and aircraft, reducing certification timelines. High-quality data collection remains pivotal, with AI enhancing models but real-world measurements remaining vital.

According to Aziz Tahiri, the vice president of aerospace and defense at Hexagon, there are three steps that manufacturers should take when it comes to implementing digital twins. The first step is to determine what data will be collected and how it will be used. After that, it is important to analyze the scale of the data that will be collected.

Step 1: Before implementing digital twins, it is also important that manufacturers identify their key performance indicators (KPIs). According to Tahiri, these are the areas where a company is losing money or building on its core expertise.

Step 2: One of the most common areas of concern that manufacturers face when it comes to implementing digital twins is the issue of missing or defective parts. This can be caused by various factors such as the lack of consistency in the parts that they produce.

Step 3: Before implementing digital twins, it is also important that manufacturers consider the location of their data storage. This is typically a decision that is either a corporate or personal one.

The aerospace industry is at the cusp of revolutionary change as it begins to implement digital twinning. This technology allows manufacturers to create virtual replicas of various processes and physical assets, which can help them improve their efficiency and reduce their risk. The benefits it offers to the industry are immense.

The implementation of digital twinning can enhance the design and product development process. It allows engineers to conduct virtual tests and simulations prior to the physical production of complex systems, which can speed up the time-to-market of new spacecraft and aircraft.

One of the biggest advantages of digital twinning is its ability to improve the efficiency of operations and maintenance. It allows manufacturers to continuously monitor and compare the data collected from their physical assets with the virtual versions. This eliminates the need for manual maintenance and increases the lifespan of their equipment.

Digital twinning also supports education and training within the aerospace sector. Through virtual simulations, employees can gain hands-on experience in emergency scenarios and aircraft operations, all without exposing them to real-world risks. This can result in better worker training and safety procedures.

Furthermore, digital twinning enables collaboration within the aerospace ecosystem. Various groups within the industry, such as suppliers, operators, engineers, and manufacturers, can now interact in a virtual space, resulting in faster problem-solving, better resource allocation, and communication.

Although digital twinning can be beneficial, it comes with several challenges. Creating a comprehensive and accurate replica requires significant investments in expertise, technology, and data infrastructure. In addition, ensuring the privacy and security of your information should be prioritized.

The aerospace industry can greatly benefit from the use of digital twinning, as it can advance in various areas, such as manufacturing, training, and maintenance. By connecting physical assets and virtual ones, the industry can explore new ways of collaborating, innovating, and reducing costs. Aerospace companies will continue to innovate and improve as they adapt to the digital age.