Virtual Twins Enable More Efficient Ship Engines

Beginning in the 1970s, Wärtsilä recognized that building physical prototypes of each giant engine to identify and eliminate errors was an impossibly expensive proposition, especially when most of its engines are customized to meet the needs of specific ships and owner/operators. Therefore, the company became an early pioneer in virtual twin modeling to ensure that its designs were “right first time” when manufactured.

“Simulation comes very naturally in this business,” said Juho Könnö, manager of system simulation at Wärtsilä. “It’s a lot about getting closer and closer to reality. When you do that, you better understand your product and what the critical things to look at really are.”

Wärtsilä’s Digital Twin Process

Wärtsilä is not content with building the world’s most efficient propulsion units for shipping, however. It also wants to ensure that its engines maintain their top performance in actual operation. Here again, the company uses virtual twins to improve its customers’ experiences.

Each Wärtsilä engine is designed with hundreds of sensors, which collect in-service operating conditions that are sent to the company for evaluation in its virtual twins. The data allows Wärtsilä experts to visualize how a specific engine is being used and to run ‘what if?’ scenarios in search of opportunities to improve performance. Based on the analysis, Wärtsilä can recommend changes to settings and operating parameters so that ship owners can get even more miles out of every ounce of fuel. The data also helps Wärtsilä engineers identify opportunities to further improve future engine designs.

“Getting the data from the real engines is really important for developing the simulation methodology,” Könnö said. “We try to use that as much as possible to calibrate our engines [before they leave the factory]. We are also using it the other way around, using simulation models to see what and where we should measure on the engine. It’s a symbiosis.”

For more information on the benefits of virtual twins at Wärtsilä and other companies, please visit https://compassmag.3ds.com/real-virtual-loops/ To learn more about Accenture’s analysis of the transportation use case, please visit the Transportation and Mobility section of “Designing Disruption".