The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Twin two – the product twin

When the twin learned to fly

Strangely, although the precursor of the digital twin was many things, it wasn’t digital. In the 1960s, NASA used physical replicas of spacecraft for simulation, training and study purposes. But what about in 2022? That’s right, we now have the digital twin in the form of a product idea and CAD model, a work instruction and quotation drawing, flying through space and time.

Text Ulrich Kläsener, Hans-Robert Koch ––– Photography

2. The product twin

Cover image: Product configuration – from the customer request through to manufacturing.

A number of digital twins are orbiting manufacturing operations around the globe, and the product twin is one of the true stars of the show. It has one marked difference from its NASA predecessors – nowadays, the product twin is created long before its physical counterpart, which is obviously manufactured on machines and systems that themselves originated from a good idea and took shape in the digital system twin.

In total contrast to the top-secret NASA structures of some 60 years ago, to which only selected specialists had access, the motto today is that the product twin is available to everyone, and why not?


“Customers are already very demanding when it comes to product personalisation options. To ensure cost-effective production, it must be possible to use the custom configuration data for manufacturing and add all the necessary information. That’s where the product twin comes in,” says Markus Asch, CEO of Rittal International and Rittal Software Systems. He goes straight on to highlight the best way of obtaining a valuable flow of information from the twin. “This data must run throughout the entire process – from configuration by the customer through to manufacturing and delivery,” he explains.

The principles behind this are a little stroke of genius. After all, although browser-based configuration tools are deemed to operate smoothly in the consumer segment with somewhat simple variation patterns, real-life industry practice throws up very different challenges for everyone involved. Without a complete, high-quality digital data set for each and every highly specific product – in short, a product twin – there is no hope whatsoever of achieving a batch size of 1, at least not cost-effectively.

“Appropriate production-relevant data in the right format, such as part lists for each product type or even each individual product, is required for manufacturing operations. In addition to the customer’s configuration information, component details or design updates can also be fed in from the PLM system,” explains Asch.


This is a perfect task for Cideon, part of the Friedhelm Loh Group, with its market-wide domain knowledge and industry-proven modular solutions. “CAD, PDM/ PLM and ERP in one integrative process.” That’s how Rolf Lisse, Managing Director of Cideon, sums up the company’s portfolio. “Our customers utilise our solutions to make both the product itself and the machinery that is used to manufacture it,” he adds. The Platinum partnership with Autodesk is one Cideon mainstay and the Platinum development partnership with SAP the other, with business based firmly on an integrative approach. “For SAP, we develop the CAD integrations for Auto-CAD, Inventor, Solid Edge, SolidWorks and Eplan, which are then marketed worldwide in collaboration with SAP,” says Lisse.

He describes the objective as maximising efficiency and value creation for customers. “To give an example, when using SAP for production, I need design data for procurement and manufacturing. I can manage the design data directly in SAP, without any further installation, and map the PDM functionality there,” continues Lisse. He goes on to explain that a single system such as this represents the “single source of truth” that is so coveted by industrial SMEs in Europe in particular, that is to say having all design and production data integrated and available in the same place. Add design guidelines and logic, and this then represents the perfect starting point for the product twin, which uses configurators to control the customised manufacturing operation.

  • Interview: Rolf Lisse, Managing Director of Cideon

    Interview: Rolf Lisse, Managing Director of Cideon

    Automating CAD data integration in manufacturing

    A configuration solution that Cideon designed for a leading material flow supplier has proved very popular with customers. Why is that?

    Lisse: First of all, because it’s very simple and works extremely fast. Customers order roller conveyors via the website. They enter the length, width and height, along with the conveying speed and throughput, and specify angles for changes in direction.

    What happens behind the scenes with the data entered?

    We use this specification as a basis for the automated generation of CAD data that is used for the quote and the manufacturing process. It takes just five minutes to create the 3D geometry and present it to the customer, who can try out the component’s product twin and determine whether it fits into their scheme. The quote is sent within an hour. The entire process used to take around two weeks or more, so this is a huge advantage in terms of performance.

    Figuratively speaking, the finished product twins pour out of the configurator. Why is the process so fast now?

    We use a variety of solutions to achieve this – the appropriate CAD system and the associated design guidelines. Obviously, the CAD models need to be specially prepared prior to the configurator’s go-live so they can be automated and restrict the variation pattern to key applications. The data generated is automatically transferred to the logistics systems so it they can be used for the downstream processes.

    After the dry-run and the customer is satisfied and places an order. What happens then?

    The data can then be passed on directly to manufacturing at the push of a button. After all, complete 3D models are available that can be used as a basis for drawings and the automated generation of CAM data.

    What used to be different?

    Almost everything. On receiving the request for a quotation, someone or other copied an existing project and worked on the design until it met the customer’s requirements. Quotation drawings were then prepared as a basis for the costings and, ultimately, the quotation itself, which was sent to the customer along with the drawings.

    Thank you for talking to us

back Part 4: The production twin  

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