The HELMo Gramme Institute has been training industrial engineers since 1906, highly valued in industry. The key to this training lies in the diversity of the courses, covering fields as varied as energy management, mechanical design, electronics, chemistry, IT, construction, etc. In order for the institute to continue to provide quality education in line with the needs of the industrial world, the teaching team is always on the lookout for technological advances and adapts its training grid at the same time.
It is with this in mind that the school has taken an active part in the “Digital Twin Academy” project supported by Interreg. This revolves around two phases: on the one hand, testing digital twins in a professional environment in order to acquire a certain mastery and on the other hand, transmitting knowledge related to the subjects by carrying out on-line learning modules.
But first, what is a digital twin? Simply, it’s a virtual copy of a real system. It will follow the physical object during its design phase, during its lifetime and will continue for long after that. It will thus be able to optimize the functioning of the physical model but also to predict it on the basis of the histories and specific mathematical models.
With the rise of Industry 4.0, the use of digital twin technologies will grow in the coming years. It is therefore a new tool that will truly revolutionize the way in which things will be carried out: innovation, design, production, integration, maintenance, IoT as well as data management, customer services, logistics, etc
If the digital twin is to be used in industry, it is imperative that the workers of tomorrow become familiar with the concept. Schools must therefore update themselves to offer their students a school curriculum adapted to what they will encounter in their future career. Thus, in addition to research projects, HELMO Gramme explores the possibilities of adding to its training grid, courses including these technologies. Therefore, various questions arise: Which courses? What software? What materials? What about cybersecurity?
In fact, given the diversity of the fields covered during the course, the first question to ask is the introduction to the subject. Is it more interesting to modify an existing course to add the concept of Digital Twin, or on the contrary, to create a course from new bases?
A fact, the best suited for the realization of a digital twin would be courses in automation. Students could thus create a 3D model, couple it to a program and connect it to a real station. This is the basic principle of the digital twin. But if we refer to the potential applications of the latter, the ideal would also be to include it in multidisciplinary projects. This would make it possible to consider the areas of expertise that this type of technology can impact, particularly in the world of production and maintenance.
After that comes the question of choosing the most suitable software suite for the industrial training of our future engineers. If the students create a 3D representation with a specific software for the technical drawing course for example, is it possible to reuse this model to create a digital twin with another suite of software? In the context of multidisciplinary projects, it would then be necessary to find a supplier who offers solutions combining several technologies in the same digital twin (water flow – heat transfer – chemistry, home automation – building – energy, etc.)
Should the whole course be based on the same suite of software? If so, isn’t this giving one supplier an advantage over another? Various suppliers have identified this problem and are thus offering partnerships to schools, giving them access to new technologies at a reduced price. However, it is necessary to pay attention to the requested considerations.
All of this finally leads us to address the question of the financing of these new technologies and the related operating licenses. Will the PCs currently present in the school be powerful enough to support the calculations of these mathematical models? Would the use of the digital twin by students during different labs make it possible to save material (new PC vs specific material for the lab)?
Finally, even if cybersecurity is not comparable in a school and in an industry, it is nevertheless important to set up effective firewalls in order to protect the IT assets of the institute. If new technologies appear, the IT architecture of the school must also evolve in order to offer an adequate service to its students.
All of this just marks the beginning of the Digital Twin adventure at Helmo Gramme …