Category: Digital Twin

21 Oct 2022


Driving sustainability through Virtual Twin Technology, while enhancing Aerodynamic Performance with Advanced Fluid Simulation.


Volvo primarily manufactures heavy-duty trucks, buses, construction equipment, and diesel engines as well as marine applications, and like many OEMs, is beginning to produce electric vehicles also. 

In today’s connected, global economy with its streamlined supply chain, goods are transported all over the world. As they make their way to a store near us or, increasingly, to our doorsteps, they were invariably transported there by trucks, at least for some part of that journey. 

In an age of online shopping—especially in the wake of the recent COVID-19 lockdowns—trucking is critical to our daily lives. However, the transportation of goods and people today is mostly powered by fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases (GHG) when burned. In the US, the transportation sector accounted for 28% of the overall GHG emissions in 2018—and 23% of that sector emission came from medium and heavy-duty trucks [1]. This makes the trucking industry a major player in the effort to minimize tailpipe emissions of GHG. At Volvo Trucks, care for the environment is one of our core values. 


The Project

Volvo Trucks believe in sustainable transport solutions. Although electric trucks are here, they know that their widespread adoption may take some time. Therefore, in addition to Volvo’s investment in electric and hydrogen-powered trucks, they are also focused on reducing the tailpipe GHG emissions of their diesel-powered trucks, to carry society through this transition period.

Raja Sengupta is responsible for the aerodynamic certification (for CO2) of Volvo’s North American product portfolio and is in charge of aerodynamic development for the SuperTruck II project sponsored by the Department of Energy. The SuperTruck project began in 2011 with a challenge to improve freight efficiency by 50%. SuperTruck II doubled that target to 100%. Sengupta worked on the original SuperTruck, as well as the ongoing SuperTruck II project, and describes the program as the greatest opportunity of his career.

Raja’s team had three key focus areas in this project:

  • Reducing the weight of the tractor and the trailer
  • Improving the efficiency of the powertrain
  • Drastically reducing the aerodynamic drag


CFD Simulation and Digital Twin Technology Drive Innovation

To improve the aerodynamic design of their baseline required extensive experimentation. Fortunately, Volvo Trucks is an advanced user of virtual experience twin technology (also known as “digital twin” technology). This powerful combination of virtual 3D design and multi-physics CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulation allowed Raja and his team to experiment in the “Digital Wind Tunnel” with real-life accuracy, testing thousands of variations in a fraction of the time and cost that would be required for testing with physical prototypes.

Unlike physical testing, our virtual experience twin process offers detailed visual insight into the airflow around the vehicle. This is critical as it drives our iterative design process— every design change is based on learnings from the previous iteration, thereby continuously improving the aerodynamics until we reach saturation or diminishing returns. 

After hundreds of tweaks and dozens of iterations, we were able to reduce the overall aerodynamic drag of ST1 by 40%, yielding a 20% direct improvement in fuel economy. But there were indirect benefits as well.

At a cruise speed of 65mph, almost half of the road load on a tractor-trailer comes from air resistance or aerodynamic drag. Therefore, by drastically reducing the drag, we were able to downsize our engine—from a 13L 485HP in the baseline to an 11L 425HP in ST1. This reduced the weight of the tractor (thereby increasing payload and therefore, freight efficiency) and lowered the engine cooling demand from what was originally anticipated, which meant we could use a smaller cooling package. This resulted in a narrower hood, a smaller grille opening, and a much lower cooling drag. 


Project Update: Paving the road to success

On the heels of the success of ST1, the DOE initiated the Supertruck II (ST2) program in 2016 and doubled the challenge—to achieve 100% improvement over the same 2009 baseline. 

The project is still ongoing as we enter the final, build phase. However, the tractor-trailer design was frozen a while back, a culmination of a similar process as ST1 powered by the same virtual experience twin technology. This time, the team were able to reduce the overall drag by 50% over our 2009 baseline—almost 20% over ST1. MY2009 Baseline Volvo Supertruck 2. 

Supertruck is similar to a concept car; while many of the improvements already are, or soon will be, incorporated into our commercial offerings, others need more work to bring down their cost. And Supertruck II isn’t the end of the journey: they recently announced Supertruck III program will focus on battery-electric and fuel-cell-powered vehicles—the designs that will move the trucking industry from a transitional period of lower tailpipe GHG emissions to one with zero tailpipe emissions. 


Discover PowerFLOW


Using the PowerFLOW suite, engineers evaluate product performance early in the design process prior to any prototype being built — when the impact of change is most significant for design and budgets. PowerFLOW imports fully complex model geometry and accurately and efficiently performs aerodynamic, aeroacoustic and thermal management simulations.

Key Capabilities:

  • Fast automated setup: Create and import geometry, define initial & boundary conditions and choose measurements to record during simulation with this application. The intuitive, fast interface application provides an entirely automated fluid grid generation solution.
  • True rotating geometry: PowerFLOW can simulate true roating geometry to optimize performance and noise in systems, such as wheel aerodynamics, brakes, HVAC systems, cooling fans and more.
  • Coupled simulations: PowerFLOW suite has the ability to seamlessly integrate PowerTHERM surface termperature & heat fluxes technologies and PowerACOUSTICS aeroacoustic noise technologies to existing simulated designs.
  • Digital wind tunnel: The digital wind tunnel model includes static and moving ground plane modeling and boundary layer suction points to match that of real-life experimental wind tunnels.
  • Analyze designs: Upon simulation completion, PowerVIZ analyses results quickly and  PowerINSIGHT automates results analysis.
  • Rapid turnaround time: Once a surface mesh model is prepared, the same model may be used to perform additional simulations. Setup, grid generation, simulation and results analysis can be performed in less than a day.



Originally published:

[1] “Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 8 June 2021, www. 

[2] Lobner, Peter. “SuperTrucks—Revolutionizing the Heavy Tractor-Trailer Freight Industry with Science.” The Lyncean Group of San Diego, 3 Apr. 2020, doe-supertruck/. 

[3] Delgado, Oscar and Nic Lutsey. “THE U.S. SUPERTRUCK PROGRAM” publications/ICCT_SuperTruck-program_20140610.pdf.

11 Sep 2022

EVENT: DELMIA World Tour 2022



When: October 20th, 2022

Where: Waltham, USA


About the Event

Discover the next innovative step in optimizing your manufacturing and supply chain operations. Join us to hear from industry experts, experience live demos and network with industry leaders at the DELMIA World Tour 2022. 

Join us for an exciting day-long event at DELMIA World Tour 2022 as we dive into industry challenges and how DELMIA solutions power innovation, resiliency and sustainability. 

The day will include:

  • A plenary session filled with industry thought leaders and DELMIA customers 
  • Focused breakout tracks for Industrial Engineering, Planning & Optimization and Manufacturing & Operations
  • Live demos of DELMIA’s collaborative tools and solutions
  • Variety of networking opportunities

DELMIA World Tour 2022 will help prepare your company to meet both the demands of today and the challenges of tomorrow.


30 Sep 2019

Catch 3DEXPERIENCE Simulation on Wheels in the Midwest

Check out SIMULIA on Wheels with the 3DEXPERIENCE tour coming to a location in the Midwest.  Mark your calendar to check out the mobile playground which is touring from September – November 2019.

On the tour, you will find a playground of interactive experiences that showcases the power of simulation through a virtual replication of the real world, the “3DEXPERIENCE twin.” As your single source of truth, this enables simulation to be fully integrated throughout concept, design, engineering and manufacturing.

View the Tour Dates:

Anyone is welcome to attend the events marked “Open House”.  Technology Days are private events held at a specific organization.





30 May 2019
digital twin

Understanding and Planning for Digital Twins

Adoption of digital twins is on the rise. Thirteen percent of Gartner survey respondents that have implemented IoT have also implemented digital twins, and 62% are working on implementation or are planning to implement them in the next year.

Companies that are considering making use of digital twins—and even organizations that wonder what they are and what they can do—will find a new white paper by Gartner, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Digital Twins,” extremely useful. Its goal is to help companies that might be planning to or already implementing the technology by providing a thorough understanding of the types of digital twins, their relationships to existing business applications, and their potential impact on those apps.

What are digital twins?

A digital twin is a new type of enterprise software component: a digital proxy or virtual representation for a business entity, whether a person, process, or thing, most often associated with IoT-connected items. IoT provides a stream of real time data to analyze the state of business. Digital Twins are used to increase situational awareness to monitor the overall health of a part or process – does it need to be replaced soon? Is it wearing faster than usual? Digital twins help gain a better understanding of how business resources evolve and change—both of which then drive improvements in commercial processes and other forms of business value.

Gartner identifies three different types of digital twins and defines an emerging role for each, as well as their relationship to each other. Each type of digital twin monitors and optimizes a different scope of individuals, assets, processes, and operations within a company:

  • Discrete digital twins focus on individual assets, people, and other physical resources.
  • Composite digital twins involve a combination of discrete digital twins and resources.
  • Digital twins of organizations (DTOs) maximize value across specific commercial processes or entire business operations.

Does Every Product Warrant a Digital Twin?

The key issue around digital twins is determining what really needs to be a digital twin. The larger, more complex a product is, the more likely a digital twin makes sense. For example, an airplane or ship would be ideal candidates for a digital twin because you would want to have proactive maintenance on those large assets and likely use IoT for feedback mechanisms on those parts and systems. However, if you make smaller products like a phone or something ubiquitous, having a digital twin on every serialized phone or part would not make sense. Perhaps only for major models or releases is where creating a digital twin makes sense. 

Digital twins introduce massive amounts of data, and serious thought needs to be given to what data is being collected and where it is shared across the business. This is where a PLM platform like 3DEXPERIENCE comes into play, it is designed to help manage product variations and how information is managed for every major design and instantiation.  Jonathan Scott from Razorleaf recently wrote an interesting article titled “Start Now:Profiting From The Digital Twin Can Take Time,” I’d recommend reading it as he outlines some of the challenges mentioned here in more detail.

Getting back to the Gartner paper — it details different digital twin design patterns and key characteristics, including proliferation, complexity, inheritance, organization, and interoperability. Common to all three types of digital twins are the two vital roles they perform for business: improving situational awareness and providing information to help companies make better business decisions.

Digital twins aren’t meant to replace business applications, but to extend their value. While they may come as an embedded part of newer, IoT-native applications, they can also be added to existing, pre–IoT era apps. Gartner offers suggestions for how to acquire them—whether they are part of purchased software, pre-developed modules to be integrated into existing software, developed in-house for integration, or outsourced for custom development—as well as recommendations for how to plan for and utilize them.

Want More Information on Digital Twins?

For a copy of the Gartner paper, please complete our Contact us form and we will email you the paper. Or, if you’d like discuss how you might incorporate digital twins into your organization, our PLM consultants would love to have that conversation. Contact us and we will be in touch with you shortly.