Committed to the highest
quality learning standards,
Monash University is
re-imagining what learning
looks like. Leveraging PTC
solutions, they are preparing
engineering students for
the workforce with a pilot
program designed to engage
students with the advanced
technologies widely used
in the real world. Learn how
they’re finding success with a
new way of learning.
Student and industry feedback from engineering
degree programs has shown there is increased
demand for exposure to real-world engineering
projects with industry relevance. Graduates also
tend to lack knowledge and appreciation of the
benefits of Industry 4.0 and digital technologies.
At Monash University, there is a focus on providing
students with opportunities to use new digital
technologies that are becoming increasingly
common in industry, such as simulation, digital
twin, Internet of Things (IoT), and augmented
Delivering authentic student learning experiences
While planning The Monash Engineering Student Pilot Plant, academic staff at Monash University saw an opportunity to apply PTC’s Industry 4.0 technology to deliver a more authentic and accessible student experience for those studying the Bachelor and Master of Engineering courses. The program is designed to help students gain hands-on experience interacting with and operating an industrially relevant process—in this case, water treatment.
The demonstration plant, based on membrane
technology for water treatment, will feature IoT
devices, an AR experience, and a digital twin to
demonstrate how these technologies can enable
wide user access, improve existing processes,
improve operator training, and enhance planning
for broader process optimization.
The Monash Engineering Student Pilot Plant and
associated Industry 4.0 technologies are designed
to be representative of industrial experiences and
needs. One example of the use of the digital twin
may be the need to increase capacity without any
increase to the footprint of a plant. A digital twin
can facilitate improvement of the efficiency of
existing process and perhaps inform an upgrade
or an augmentation to the existing system in the
most efficient, most economical way. Digital twins
are also hugely beneficial as teaching and training
tools, enabling remote access, process simulation,
and scenario-based activities.
Addressing issues with existing technology
The vast majority of process and manufacturing industries deal with water treatment, either as their core or an ancillary process. Water treatment was therefore chosen by Monash to demonstrate in their Student Pilot Plant due to its wide technical applicability to industry. Students who interact with the pilot plant during their studies will therefore all graduate with authentic, practical experience that they will be able to apply in their professional careers.
An additional issue is that university labs typically involve physical equipment which has limitations in terms of scale, accessibility for remote students, and capacity for students to work simultaneously. The inclusion and focus on digitization technologies—including remote access, simulation, and digital twins—will remove these bottlenecks, creating an accessible, inclusive experience for all students
The Student Pilot Plant also represents an opportunity for technological advancement of industrial water treatment processes. Few instances of online, real-time optimization exist in water treatment processes, which are typically low margin processes or negative value waste treatment processes to meet disposal and regulation requirements. The adoption and implementation of Industry 4.0 and digitization technologies in water treatment is limited. Whilst existing SCADA/DCS systems available in typical water treatment plants do offer automated control and remote access, this is predominantly regulatory control with heavy reliance on operator input and experience.
Highlighting a digital twin solution
A digital twin-based solution is expected to provide opportunities for teaching, training, and broader process optimization, such as automating optimization tasks and removing the need to rely on operator experience and specific operator knowledge and decision making.
The Monash Student Pilot Plant will serve as a demonstration of such digital twin technology implementation. It will be an educational tool for students and industry professionals, showcasing process automation and operation and using the digital twin to provide a functioning example for learning, teaching, and research purposes within the university, as well as demonstrating the feasibility of a functional digital twin to showcase to potential future industry partners (both in water treatment and other processes and industries).
IoT data will flow from physical devices such as
control valves and flow meters on the pilot plant
to the digital twin, where it will be analysed and
interpreted by AI and machine learning to provide
complex data analytics and online process
optimization. It will also increase the potential
for data use in offline simulations to enable
case studies and provide additional insights into
Following feedback from various stakeholders,
Monash sees the opportunity for benefits from
an on-campus, remotely accessible, combined
physical and digital water treatment pilot plant to
students and industry to include:
- Training - use of digital twin for online, AR/
VR-based familiarisation and training for
students and industry professionals
- Design - creation of new assets and design of expansions and capacity increases for
- Advanced control and automation -
integration of AR, IIoT, smart sensors, etc.
- Online process optimization - integrated
digital twin with two-way data transfer for
process optimization over longer timescales
than are typically expected of human
- Offline process optimization - scenario-based/
case study investigations for
troubleshooting, process improvement,
optimization, and efficiency improvements—
testing edge cases, in particular
- Integration with enterprise systems - use of
the digital twin/outputs from the digital twin
to perform optimization activities at higher
levels of the business without disturbing the
- Business currency, social aspects - helping
industries to attract talented individuals and
to be viewed as technologically up to date
Monash University partners with LEAP and PTC to engage students in new way
Monash is working with LEAP and PTC for the
initial AR and digital twin project, leveraging
their existing relationship and demonstrable
experience in the relevant digital technologies,
plus their ability to help rapidly deliver an
authentic experience for students and industry
by combining IoT and AR with the Monash
Engineering Student Pilot Plant.
AR experiences are currently being created
in Vuforia Studio to facilitate visualization of
proposed plant equipment before installation.
Those experiences will be connected to the
ThingWorx IoT/digital twin platform and Ansys
simulations to create an AR-based Human
Machine Interface (HMI) to expand on-site
accessibility to the physical equipment via remote
and simultaneous access to the digital twin.
During the initial planning stage, use of AR is
allowing Monash staff to rapidly showcase the
3D models of the pilot plant at true scale in the
planned physical space. The creation of this
initial AR experience was completed within a
timespan of just a few weeks (while it is typical to
wait many months for physical equipment to be
installed). Training and teaching activities using
AR, both with and without connection to the
physical equipment, are also being planned in
Looking forward, the integrated physical and
digital systems will enable students to gain an
appreciation of how digital technology interacts with industrial processes. Using AR connected
to the digital twin, students can conduct
remote walk-throughs of and interact with the
entire process to provide them with a deeper
understanding of the process and equipment.
Choosing PTC’s IoT and AR technology
highlights key benefits
The digital twin and associated technologies that
are being developed by Monash are expected
to showcase the advantages of digitization
technologies and rapidly facilitate the enhanced
learning experience of hundreds of students per
week. The students will be interacting with the IoT
data and digital twin of the Monash Student pilot
Plant via remote access and AR experiences.
“ThingWorx and Vuforia are a perfect fit for what
we are trying to achieve, thanks to strong technical
capabilities and ease of use with a quick learning
curve,” explains Dr. Joanne Tanner, Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University.
“Since the Vuforia AR solution is built on top of
ThingWorx, we are also excited about the ease
of building a combined IoT and AR experience
without the need for any extensive programming
or IT knowledge, potentially making this platform
a great way for students to be involved in
developing the digital twin.”
The new solution enhances learning for hundreds of students each week
For the university, this digital solution will provide an ability to remove bottlenecks from physical equipment used in laboratory teaching. Digital twins combining IoT and AR have the capacity to provide an enhanced learning experience for many hundreds of students per week, which avoids the usual capacity limitations when students are accessing limited physical equipment. It is also expected to provide a more authentic user experience for student engineers, mimicking the way in which they will interact with processes in industry via control systems and process simulations for online and offline training, design, and optimization.
“ThingWorx and Vuforia are
a perfect fit for what we are
trying to achieve, thanks to
strong technical capabilities
and ease of use with a quick
– Dr. Joanne Tanner, Department of Chemical Engineering, Monash University
The future is bright for Monash engineering students
The staff plan to expand the Monash Engineering Student Pilot Plant to include a larger suite of industrial processes, including biological engineering processes. They will also implement always-available remote access to the pilot plant digital twin to facilitate self-directed learning. An extension of these tertiary teaching activities will also include industry demonstrations, training, and short courses.
With these new learning opportunities, Monash engineering graduates are sure to have bright careers ahead—and the university is eager to continue expanding these new learning paths for generations of engineers to come.