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Virtual commissioning and digital twins

Robots need to be versatile, adaptable, and safe to collaborate with humans in various tasks. This requires careful planning and coordination of their movements and behaviors. Smart manufacturing can assist car makers and their suppliers in this aspect.

Virtual commissioning is a key technique for this purpose. It uses digital twins and simulations to design, optimize, and control assembly processes before they are executed in reality. These models rely on advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

With virtual commissioning, manufacturers can experiment with different robot positions and plan and test how they interact with humans. This can help detect and fix any issues before installing the systems in a work cell, production line, or factory.

A digital twin can also represent the human-robot collaboration and train human operators before they work with the robots. This virtual training can give them real-world experience and improve their productivity and safety.

The same digital twin can monitor the human-robot collaboration after the system is deployed. It can use data from the HRC interactions to identify and address any safety risks and optimize the performance of the system.

Let’s deep dive into each notion!

As mentioned, digital twins and virtual commissioning are two related concepts that involve the use of simulation and data to improve the design, testing, and operation of complex systems, such as machines or factories. They are both part of the Industry 4.0 paradigm, which aims to create smart and connected manufacturing systems using advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and internet of things.

Virtual commissioning and digital twins are closely related concepts in the realm of manufacturing systems, and they often complement each other to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance overall operational performance.

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Let’s explore the correlation between virtual commissioning and digital twins in manufacturing:

Virtual Commissioning:

Virtual commissioning is a process of testing and validating the functionality and integration of a system, such as a machine or a factory, before it is physically built or installed. It can use a digital twin of the system, and connect it to the real control logic, such as a programmable logic controller (PLC), to simulate the system’s operation and response.

This simulation allows engineers and operators to test and validate control strategies, optimize processes, and identify potential issues in a virtual environment before the actual commissioning of physical equipment. Overall, virtual commissioning can be used for various benefits, such as reducing errors, costs, and time, as well as improving quality, safety, and efficiency.

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Digital Twins in Manufacturing:

Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical objects or systems, providing a real-time, data-driven representation of equipment, processes, and the entire manufacturing environment.

A digital twin can simulate the design, behavior, performance, and condition of the real system, using data from sensors, models, or other sources. In fact, real-time data from sensors on the physical asset can be used to update and synchronize the digital twin, providing a dynamic and accurate representation. A digital twin can also communicate with the real system, and update itself accordingly. A digital twin can be used for various purposes, such as monitoring, optimization, prediction, or innovation.

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Correlation between Virtual Commissioning and Digital Twins in Manufacturing:

Virtual commissioning and digital twins are correlated in the sense that visual data collected during the commissioning process can be used to create or update digital twins. The visual information gathered from cameras and sensors during the commissioning phase can be integrated into the digital twin to enhance its accuracy and completeness.

Digital twins can facilitate remote monitoring and control of industrial processes, allowing operators and engineers to visualize the real-time status and performance of physical assets. This virtual representation enables them to identify issues, optimize performance, and make informed decisions without being physically present at the site.

Virtual commissioning activities can be augmented by leveraging digital twins. For example, engineers can use the digital twin to simulate different scenarios, test changes virtually, and predict the impact of adjustments before implementing them in the physical system.

If we had to create a more simplified list for the above, we would end up to the following:

  • Simulation and Validation: Virtual commissioning involves creating a detailed simulation of the manufacturing system. This simulation can be considered a specific type of digital twin that focuses on the pre-commissioning phase. The virtual commissioning model can be integrated with the broader digital twin of the manufacturing system.
  • Optimizing Control Strategies: During virtual commissioning, engineers can test and refine control strategies in the virtual environment. The lessons learned from this process can be applied to the digital twin, enhancing its ability to accurately represent the behavior of the physical system and improving control algorithms for real-world scenarios.
  • Early Detection of Issues: Virtual commissioning allows for the identification and resolution of potential issues in the design or control logic before physical implementation. Any insights gained from virtual commissioning can be incorporated into the digital twin, enabling the continuous improvement of the twin’s accuracy and predictive capabilities.
  • Real-time Monitoring and Analysis: As the manufacturing system operates in the physical world, real-time data from sensors and other sources can be fed into the digital twin. This real-time information can be used to validate the accuracy of the virtual commissioning model and ensure that it reflects the current state of the physical system.
  • Continuous Improvement: Both virtual commissioning and digital twins support a cycle of continuous improvement. Insights gained from the virtual commissioning phase can inform updates and enhancements to the digital twin, and vice versa. This iterative process contributes to the ongoing optimization of manufacturing processes.


Both virtual commissioning and digital twins in manufacturing share the goal of creating accurate and dynamic representations of physical systems. Virtual commissioning provides a way to validate designs and control strategies before physical implementation, and the insights gained contribute to the ongoing refinement of the broader digital twin throughout the lifecycle of the manufacturing system.

Yet, they both

  • use simulation and data to create and test virtual models of physical systems, and to synchronize them with the real systems.
  • enable the early detection and resolution of potential issues, as well as the exploration and evaluation of alternative solutions.
  • facilitate the collaboration and coordination among different stakeholders, such as engineers, operators, and customers.

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