The case for digital twins in metal additive manufacturing

D. R. Gunasegaram, A. B. Murphy, M. J. Matthews, T. DebRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The digital twin (DT) is a relatively new concept that is finding increased acceptance in industry. A DT is generally considered as comprising a physical entity, its virtual replica, and two-way digital data communications in-between. Its primary purpose is to leverage the process intelligence captured within digital models-or usually their faster-solving surrogates-towards generating increased value from the physical entities. The surrogate models are created using machine learning based on data obtained from the field, experiments and digital models, which may be physics-based or statistics-based. Anomaly detection and correction, and diagnostic closed-loop process control are examples of how a process DT can be deployed. In the manufacturing industry, its use can achieve improvements in product quality and process productivity. Metal additive manufacturing (AM) stands to gain tremendously from the use of DTs. This is because the AM process is inherently chaotic, resulting in poor repeatability. However, a DT acting in a supervisory role can inject certainty into the process by actively keeping it within bounds through real-time control commands. Closed-loop feedforward control is achieved by observing the process through sensors that monitor critical parameters and, if there are any deviations from their respective optimal ranges, suitable corrective actions are triggered. The type of corrective action (e.g. a change in laser power or a modification to the scanning speed) and its magnitude are determined by interrogating the surrogate models. Because of their artificial intelligence (AI)-endowed predictive capabilities, which allow them to foresee a future state of the physical twin (e.g. the AM process), DTs proactively take context-sensitive preventative steps, whereas traditional closed-loop feedback control is usually reactive. Apart from assisting a build process in real-time, a DT can help with planning the build of a part by pinpointing the optimum processing window relevant to the desired outcome. Again, the surrogate models are consulted to obtain the required information. In this article, we explain how the application of DTs to the metal AM process can significantly widen its application space by making the process more repeatable (through quality assurance) and cheaper (by getting builds right the first time).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number040401
JournalJPhys Materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Materials Science(all)


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