If Prototypes Could Talk: A Digital Twin Uncovers Flaw in Race Car Suspension

Written by: Cat McClintock

Alexa, how will my design perform in the real world?” Too bad prototyping isn’t that easy. You can apply your most complicated formulas, you can run digital simulation studies all day, but it will not tell you how an individual product is actually performing in the real world.

Until now. 

With advances in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, it’s now practical to add and connect sensors to both the digital model and the physical product. This effectively creates a digital twin using Creo; that is, a digital representation of a physical experience of an actual product.

The physical sensors stream data back to the digital model—telling you exactly what’s going well and what might need some tweaking.

Building Smart, Connected Race Cars

Sensor-enabled products and design may sound like a curiosity. But in fact, some companies already use the technology to help develop products—especially those that can easily adapt to new ideas.

Case in point? A lightweight (just under 1000 pounds with a driver) single seater vehicle designed in Israel.

“Because there is no motorsport industry here it means we are not confined by any kind of dogma or certain ways of thinking that tells you a racecar should look like this, or should be operated like that,” said the company's CEO. “We have no culture behind us; and so we can think outside of the box very easily.”

That helps explain why the company became early adopters of the digital twin approach to product development. 

Real-World Insights

PTC Senior Vice President, CAD Segment, Brian Thompson picks up the story from there. In a recent presentation at Develop3D Live 2018, he explained: “The company was having trouble translating shock absorber deflection data into real insights into how the car was performing as it went around the track.”

The company added sensors to the physical racecar (and, correspondingly, to its digital model). Creo Product Insight Extension then streamed real-world sensor data back to the digital model as the car lapped the track.

“As soon as we piped that data into a digital twin of the car and had the CAD model calculate the actual physical reaction of the car and its shock absorbers, they immediately saw a problem in the front suspension,” Thompson said. “The car’s performance improved immediately.”

Griiip digital twin

Digital Twin: Bringing IoT to Product Development

Of course, you can apply some sensors to and gather data from almost anything. But, to best apply it to your design, you’ll need to connect the data streams to a digital twin.

Here’s a closer look at the process:

  1. Build a product using 3D CAD.
  2. Build a physical prototype of the product.
  3. Add sensors to the prototype.
  4. Build the sensors in the 3D CAD model.
  5. Collect the data (E.g., via ThingWorx).
  6. Associate the sensors’ data streams to the sensors in your 3D CAD model (E.g., via Creo Product Insight Extension).
  7. Voila! Now your model can talk.

To summarize, you’re building sensors in your models that connect to sensors in the real world. Then, you’re using real-world data to run simulations in Creo. And note that while this example looks at a prototype, there’s no reason you couldn’t do something similar with your products released to the field.

Griiip chassis with Creo Product Insight in background

Race car with sensors (and their data) shown in the Creo Product Insight Extension.

Explore the Internet of Things

Stepping into smart, connected product development can be simpler than you think. If you’re ready to take advantage of these exciting new technologies in your own team’s product development and design processes, download the new Smart, Connected Product Design infographic. 

Find out why smart, connected products matters, what to consider, and how to get started. Download your free infographic today.

Download the free infographic: Designing Smart Connected Products



Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices Digital Twin

About the Author

Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.