3D digital twins in industry, mechanical engineering & plant design

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3D digital twins offer industrial companies completely new opportunities to optimize time and costs along the entire process chain, from product planning, testing, production and usage to monitoring and maintenance. Learn how 3D digital twins can help to opmimize your processes.

At the end of the 20th century, NASA engineers wondered how to best test and maintain inaccessible equipment and machines remotely – the first digital twins were born. They helped to accurately test updates before they were applied to the real equipment. As the Internet of Things gained traction in the 2010s and the broader market began to network products and services, industries well beyond the aerospace sector also discovered digital twins for themselves. Today, the technology is an important part of Industry 4.0. According to a study conducted by the Capgemini Research Institute in the summer of 2022, 60 percent of companies in the automotive, aerospace, life sciences, energy and utilities industries are currently using 3D digital twin technology.

What is a 3D digital twin?

A 3D digital twin is a virtual copy of an object that either already exists or is still in the planning phase. In Industry 4.0, these are machines, plants and devices. However, 3D digital twins are also beneficial for planning and manufacturing in other areas such as sports equipment or logistics. 3D technology is used to create a digital image that corresponds to its model in every detail – not just visually.  A digital twin has all the material and functional information of the real object, so real processes can be simulated accuratly. As a result, 3D Digital Twins offer medium-sized industrial companies completely new opportunities to optimize time and costs along the entire process chain, from product planning, testing, production and usage to monitoring and maintenance.

How do digital twins work?

3D Digital twins in industry

A better term for digital twin is "simulation". After all, the technology is primarily intended to make functions and the performance of devices comprehensible  – in other words, to simulate them. This involves the use of 3D and design data, but also manual input. The finished virtual copy can then be implemented in the industrial environment for a wide variety of applications.

Testing prototypes before production

Simulations enable more targeted decisions in the planning process for new plants.  What materials should a prototype be made of, what dimensions or ports should it have, what motor?  All of these questions can be answered by a simulation even before the first prototype is built. Actual production can then take place much later in the process.

This increases the probability that the expensive prototype is already very close to the later end product and does not have to undergo a costly remanufacturing process. Later, the simulated data can be replaced by real data. They can be collected with the help of sensors and also added manually. This makes it possible to draw conclusions and make predictions about wear, utilization and efficiency.

Virtual coordination in the industrial environment

With a digital image of a real product or construction plan, completely new ways of planning and coordination become possible. All participants can access digital content at any time and from anywhere. Right from the start, a prototype is available in 3D, on the basis of which architectures, ideas and problems can be discussed and thought through.

In VR meetings, the 3D digital twins allow all participants to view, measure and revise at the same time. This applies not only to individual products or machines, but also to entire plants. In this way, all eventualities can be played through and coordinated in advance before the actual construction starts. This enables an optimal construction time without unforeseen problems. 

Product training during operation

Complex products, machines and systems often require a great deal of explanation. Users have to be instructed comprehensively in their use, whereby possible problems and special features also play a role. For this purpose, the machines are usually at a standstill and experienced personnel have to take the time to provide instruction.

A 3D digital twin makes this standstill in production unnecessary. Learners can simply call up a digital 3D image of the machine and even project the whole plant next to them in Augmented Reality to walk around it. Animations provide the opportunity to visualize processes, simulate problems and demonstrate solutions.

What is an exploded view?

Exploded views can provide excellent information about the complete structure of a machine. In them, every component, down to the smallest screw, can be precisely named and explained. This enables both trainees and more established personnel to be trained efficiently and on an individual level. In addition, spare parts orders are considerably simplified. If something is not understood immediately, it can be viewed several times. This enables learning at one's own pace.

Digital twins in the sales process

Anyone who sells complex macchines and systems cannot simply place them in an online store and wait for them to sell. Products of this kind have to be explained, demonstrated and meticulously planned. Here, a digital twin provides the opportunity to demonstrate the equipment in 3D, Augmented Reality or even Virtual Reality, regardless of location.

Animations show processes, exploded views illustrate the construction, and various annotations can do some of the explaining. Using Augmented Reality, customers can even set up the plants on their own premises for testing purposes. This offers an enormous competitive advantage over the competition and frees up a lot of time to keep more customers satisfied in the same period of time.

Advantages of 3D digital twins at a glance

Companies can use 3D digital twins in a variety of ways and benefit from enormous time and cost savings. Specifically, the benefits are as follows:

  • Cost savings through product testing before the prototype is manufactured
  • Time savings, as coordination can take place online, independent of location, without the need to travel
  • Individual product training at your own pace with animations and simulations
  • Better overview of spare parts thanks to exploded views
  • Precise plant planning thanks to Augmented Reality
  • Fewer downtimesas machines have to stand still less often


Just a few years ago, 3D digital twins were a futuristic technology straight from science fiction movies. Today, there are a multitude of solutions on the market that offer countless options. If you want to stay competitive, you should look for solutions that fit your needs. It is still possible to gain great advantages in planning, production, maintenance and training. With rooom, creating 3D digital twins is incredibly easy. Administration is done via CMS and changes can be made at any time. The platform also offers a solution for virtual meetings in Virtual Reality. This means you have a key partner for your entry into Industry 4.0.

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