Do Digital Twins Need Physical Counterparts to Exist?

Does a digital twin need a physical counterpart?

No.

Let’s dive in.

A digital twin typically refers to a virtual model designed to accurately reflect an object, process, system, or service.

The concept is most commonly discussed in contexts where there’s a tangible counterpart that the digital twin aims to simulate, analyze, and monitor.

In a 2022 report, digital twin pioneer Michael Grieves said it’s a fallacy that a digital twin does not exist until and unless there’s a physical product. A true digital twin, he wrote, is intended to represent something that will physically exist.

“A digital model of a flying carpet will never become a digital twin because there is no intention, let alone ability, to make it a physical product,” he wrote.

Credited with introducing the concept in 2002, Grieves said that since its inception, the digital twin has always been intended to exist in all four phases of the product lifecycle: create, build, operate and sustain, and dispose.

A digital twin is especially valuable during the create phase, he wrote.

“It is embodied in the saying that ‘no one goes into a factory, pounds on some metal, and hopes an airplane will come out,'” he wrote.

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