Designing Disruption

The Critical Role of Virtual Twins in Accelerating Sustainability

Virtual Twins Deliver Proven Sustainability Gains

Around the globe, people from all walks of life are racing to put humanity on a path to sustainability, before climate change, resource depletion and other looming threats destroy Earth’s ability to support life as we know it. Each sector has a role to play, and technology is at the forefront of many of their efforts.

One significantly underused technology – the virtual twin – allows businesses, governments and other organizations to design and test their actions virtually, in the computer, before taking an action. By allowing us to understand the results of our plans before we act, virtual twins reduce or eliminate negative outcomes while increasing positive ones.

DESIGNING DISRUPTION: The Critical Role of Virtual Twins in Accelerating Sustainability

How can virtual twins contribute to sustainability?

Florence Verzelen, Dassault Systèmes' Executive Vice-President, Industry, Field Marketing & Sustainability, explains.

The Virtual Twin Advantage

So, what is a virtual twin? Rudimentary digital twins – 3D computer models of products that do or could exist in the real world – have been in use since the 1960s. Although the technology has advanced in the past 60 years, every digital twin is, in fact, still just a 3D CAD model. Virtual twins, however, are a significant step beyond digital twins. With the ability to imagine and measure possible impacts, virtual twins deliver impressive sustainability potential on hundreds of measures.

Unlike digital twins, which represent a 3D model in isolation, virtual twins are scientifically accurate virtual models of objects that can be tested in sophisticated virtual models of the environments where they will operate. This allows developers to subject twins to different conditions and scenarios to observe and measure how they will behave.

If the outcome is less than optimal, the virtual twin can be changed with a few keystrokes, improving outcomes and optimizing for success – before anything is built in the real world. Beyond the designer’s time and a bit of computing power, no resources are consumed, no waste is produced and no real-world damage is done.

Designing with virtual twins for material use optimization. (Image © Dassault Systèmes)

While digital twins are static, virtual twins are dynamic. As real-time or experimental data feeds into virtual twins from a factory, city or any other planned or existing environment, they change and react, enabling users to analyze, iterate and control outcomes.

The dynamic nature of virtual twins makes them especially relevant to understanding the sustainability impacts of products or as-yet-unimplemented development plans. Will a change in traffic flow improve and worsen traffic jams and CO2 emissions? How can buildings be renovated most efficiently to conserve energy? How can HVAC systems be designed to control contagion dispersal in large crowds? Of multiple options, which surgical approach will deliver the best results for a specific patient? How can a product be redesigned to reduce material consumption and improve recyclability?

These are just a few of the myriad questions virtual twins can answer while an idea lives only in the computer, streamlining refinements, improving outcomes and avoiding negative consequences.

Discover the specific virtual twin use cases analyzed and quantified in the white paper.

Beyond the Numbers

Five businesses already improving sustainability with virtual twins

The sustainability white paper jointly developed by Accenture and Dassault Systèmes accomplishes an impressive feat: putting hard numbers to virtual twins’ potential to improve sustainability outcomes in five specific industry situations. Beyond the numbers, however, we can learn a great deal from the actual sustainability experience of virtual twin users – and how they plan to build on those gains going forward.

And so we invite you to discover five  Dassault Systèmes customers who are already proving and gaining the sustainability benefits of virtual twins in their daily business. We salute their success – and commit to helping them surpass it.

Sustainable Cities

Cities – and the buildings that dominate them – are becoming more central to modern life with each passing day. By 2030, experts estimate that the world with have 706 cites with at least 1 million inhabitants each, an increase of nearly 30% from 2018.

Applying virtual twins to the construction and operation of new commercial and residential buildings around the world could significantly improve energy management, reducing the structures’ operating expenses US$288 billion by 2030 and cutting CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions by nearly 7,000 metric tons.

At the forefront of this trend stands Aden Group, one of Asia’s largest integrated facility management  companies and an expert in applying virtual twins to the task of optimizing building construction and management.

Sustainable Cities > Dassault Systèmes
Virtual Automative Wind-Tunnel Testing > Dassault Systèmes

Virtual Automotive Wind-tunnel Testing

The transportation industry is indispensable to life and leisure around the globe, accounting for between 6% and 12% of GDP in developed countries. The CO2 released by transport, however, including road, rail, air and marine, accounts for 25% of all emissions, and is projected to grow at a faster rate than that of other economic sectors.

Many automotive manufacturers are already using virtual twins to reduce waste, costs and CO2 emissions with simulation. Now those applications are being extended to emissions and fuel-economy testing, accurately and economically replacing the physical wind-tunnel tests normally required for every variation of every make and model.

Accenture estimates that replacing physical prototypes and tests with virtual twin simulations could reduce transportation product development costs by US$261 billion; lower the cost of developing autonomous vehicles by US$429 billion; reduce CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions from physical prototypes and test vehicles by 2 metric tons [Mt]; and prevent 227 Mt of CO2e emissions.

Sustainable Packaging With Virtual Twins

The Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry accounts for approximately two-thirds of international trade volumes. Although the industry faces significant sustainability challenges on multiple fronts (CO2 emissions, food waste, excess packaging), Accenture estimates that applying virtual twins to product design in CPG could reduce the industry’s raw material costs by US$131 billion; reduce product development costs by US$6 billion; and achieve a 281 metric tons (Mt) reduction in CO2-equivalent (CO2e) output.

One CPG company that is proving out these savings: Amcor Rigid Plastics, which makes packaging for thousands of CPG products, including food and beverage, healthcare, home and personal products.

Sustainable Packaging With Virtual Twins > Dassault Systèmes
Virtual Twin Validation In Drug Manufacturing > Dassault Systèmes

Virtual Twin Validation In Drug Manufacturing

The Life Sciences industry encompasses many different disciplines, including pharmaceutical, biotech and medical devices. Alongside its many benefits, however, the Life Sciences industry has an outsized impact on sustainability. A new research paper estimates, however, that using virtual twin simulations to improve Life Science manufacturing processes could save pharmaceutical manufacturers US$106 billion by 2030 and reduce CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 61 metric tons.

One real-life example: a major global pharmaceutical manufacturer that worked with Dassault Systèmes to test, validate and qualify a robotic syringe-filling machine virtually, which also allowed operations to begin in a fraction of the time normally required.

Virtual Twins Enable More Efficient Ship Engines

Shipping – a marine industry that also can be classified as a transportation industry – is vital to the operation of global supply chains, as well as fishing, tourism and a host of other activities. However, shipping contributes to the transportation sector’s CO2-equivalent emissions, which account for 25% of all global emissions. Virtual development and testing in the industry via virtual twins could significantly reduce those emissions.

One company at the forefront of virtual testing in transportation is Wärtsilä, which designs and manufactures engines for maritime vessels that range from tugboats to the world’s largest container and cruise ships. Wärtsilä’s use of virtual twins is so advanced, in fact, that its engines have been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s most efficient.

Wärtsilä > Dassault Systèmes

Industry insights for a more sustainable economy

Discover how Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE virtual universes can be used to achieve radically new products, materials and processes needed to create a more sustainable economy in a variety of industries.