Technical schools use Digital Twins in the classroom

Technical schools use Digital Twins in the classroom

At Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering, students use digital 3D copies of automation systems to program automatic production lines. It provides the school with higher flexibility and saves the students the hassle of working with the physical systems, says the teacher. Xcelgo offers an educational software package for schools with the same ambitions.

Digital Twins, smart factories and big data. These are just some of the buzzwords that are thrown around whenever Industry 4.0 is mentioned – the fourth industrial revolution. The industry vision is to intertwine the physical and digital world and digitalize the production.

At Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering however, the concept is not just reduced to buzzwords and marketing hype. Here, a large part of the automation education involves precise 3D replicas of physical automation systems – so-called Digital Twins. And for good reasons:

“Physical equipment is expensive, and the learning process is slow. With Digital Twins we are very flexible because we can expand the number of machines with a mouse click”, says Jesper Meincke Hansen, assistant professor at Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering.

He teaches future marine and automation engineers in automation, and since the beginning of the year, Xcelgo’s Digital Twin modelling software Experior has been on the curriculum.

A bridge between the digital and physical world

A Digital Twin can best be described as a dynamic software model of an automation system. The Digital Twin acts as a bridge between the digital and physical world that enables data analysis to prevent problems before they occur, reduce shutdowns, and even develop in new directions and plan for the future through simulations.

“When I first heard that simulations were used in automation education, I thought: ‘Why? I would much rather just program for real on real systems’”, Jesper Meincke Hansen says. But when he discovered that Experior isn’t just used for classic simulation, he spotted the educational possibilities.

When programming an automation solution, Experior allows for control software testing on the Digital Twin through virtual commissioning. For such a task, the 3D models must be significantly more realistic and detailed than with the classic simulations.

Experior allows students to:

  • work with an unlimited number of mechanical configurations – without increasing the costs
  • work with updated hardware and software, rather than the often limited systems that they otherwise have access to
  • use 3D models in exam projects
  • scale school projects, as the models are larger and more complex than is otherwise possible
  • offer the companies, they intern at, faster and cheaper optimization or commissioning of automation systems through “virtual commissioning” testing in Experior

Building a Digital Twin of the Smart Production Line at AAU in Denmark

“The students really like the realism of Experior. When we usually simulate, they have to imagine a large part of the system, as we have never been able to build a whole package facility, for example”, says Jesper Meincke Hansen.

Danish company supplies the tools

The industry is also opening its eyes for the benefits of Digital Twin technology. They know this at Xcelgo – the developers of the Digital Twin modelling platform Experior used by Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering. Experior is industry-leading in virtual commissioning of industrial controls through Digital Twins.

Experior Education for educational institutions will be launched soon and is going to include software licensescustom models and component catalogs and video instructions to use for teaching, student projects, exam projects and research. Learn more here.

“Today, more and more international companies use Digital Twins because of the huge benefits in reduced time and money spent – especially in connection with the commissioning of new systems. Also, Digital Twins ensure better overall solutions with higher quality in the control software”, says Bent Aksel Jørgensen, CEO of Xcelgo.

At Xcelgo, they applaud Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering for helping the Danish industry in keeping up with the Digitalization:

“When the technical schools educate young Danish automation engineers with these skills, the possibility of Danish companies keeping up with the technological development is significantly improved,” Bent Aksel Jørgensen says.

Other schools should jump on the Industry 4.0 train

In addition to Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering Experior is also a part of both education and research projects at among others Copenhagen School of Marine Engineering and Technology Management, Aalborg University and Dania Business Academy in Denmark, Ostwestfalen Lippe University of Applied Sciences in Germany and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

Jesper Meincke Hansen encourages other technical schools to use Experior in the education of marine and automation engineers. In this way, the schools can share knowledge and use each other’s developed 3D models. He advises the teachers to start slow:

“Start off with simple tasks and work your way up. If the students start off with a success, it goes fast from there, because Experior actually isn’t very difficult to use,” says Jesper Meincke Hansen.

For educational institution with these ambitions, Xcelgo offers the Experior Education software package that includes software licenses and custom models and component catalogs to use for teaching, student projects, exam projects and research. Contact Xcelgo to learn more.

Learn more about the Digital Twin modelling platform Experior here and learn about the different applications of Experior here.