University of Twente Student Theses


Developing a functional design of digital twin use cases in bridge management

Wientjes, S.F.J. (2021) Developing a functional design of digital twin use cases in bridge management.

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Abstract:Many bridges in the Netherlands will show a significant replacement peak in the coming decade. Changes such as increasing and changing mobility and climate change require a smart and efficient approach to bridge management and maintenance. In bridge management, current maintenance strategies are mainly based on visual inspections. These inspections take place at long intervals, are labor intensive and expensive. Besides, not all damage can be properly determined with visual inspections, and it is particularly difficult to determine the cause of the damage. To prevent failures in the future, it is important that bridges are inspected and maintained more efficiently than is currently the case. At the same time, there are many developments in bridge management in technology. Working methods are increasingly digitized and automated. At the moment there are several projects in the Netherlands where experiments are being done with the use of a Digital Twin (DT). However, it is not yet clear which challenges can be supported in the current practice of bridge management with DTs and how DTs can contribute to those specific cases, which prompted this research. The aim of this research is to develop a functional design for the most relevant DT use cases for engineering firms in bridge management. Wieringa's design cycle method was used in this research, which consists of knowledge questions and a design problem. In this research, the aim of the knowledge questions is on the one hand to map out the challenges in the current practice and on the other hand to identify the use cases of DTs in bridge management. The aim of the design problem in this research is to link existing knowledge about the use of DTs to bridge management practice by developing a functional design for the most relevant use cases. To identify the features of DTs in bridge management, a literature study was carried out showing that DTs in bridge management are characterized by the following four aspects: connectivity between the physical world and the virtual world, common data environment, visualization of data and information and simulation of 'what-if' scenarios. Since the definition of a DT is context dependent and therefore has multiple definitions, a DT reference framework was chosen in the literature review that is in line with bridge management. The chosen DT framework consists of six DT building blocks that are semantically linked to each other. Semantic means giving meaning to the models, information, and data so that they can be interpreted by humans and computers. The six DT building blocks are: the physical layer, the model layer, the data layer, connection layer, the service layer, and the enterprise layer. Based on the DT related challenges of an engineering firm in current bridge management practice, eight DT use cases have been identified. To assess the applicability of DTs in practice and to map the contribution of DTs in bridge management, the most relevant DT use cases have been developed into a functional design. The DT framework forms the basis for developing the functional design. The following two use cases have been chosen from the list of eight DT use cases based on the expertise of an expert panel from an engineering firm in the Netherlands: • Digital access to inspection information and input of inspection data during a visual inspection. • Predicting the performance of the bridge. The functional design of both use cases shows that the current work process and decision making in bridge management can be improved by using DTs. The first use case provides a practical example of how a DT can contribute to current bridge management practices by giving the inspector digital access to inspection information and the ability to digitally enter inspection data during a visual inspection. The functional design consists of a data scheme for a 3D information model. By linking the 3D information model with an inspection application, the inspector has digital access to the 3D information model during an inspection. Validation showed that the use case is expected to help automate multiple steps in the current workflow, reducing the frequent transfers of data and information and reducing the probability of inspection errors. In addition, a digital inspection application is considered by the panel of experts as a suitable means of communication for the inspector during an inspection. Predicting bridge performance is a practical example of how a DT can contribute to meeting the customer's information needs. Sensors generate data that is stored in a 3D environment. Using calculation models, the sensor data is translated into information. The asset manager has access to a dashboard where important parameters from the calculation models are visually displayed. Validation showed that the visual representation of the parameters using a dashboard improves the information presentation to the customer. The conclusion of this study is that the implementation of DTs in current bridge management practice for engineering firms will lead to a more efficient and effective approach to inspection, fading and extension of bridge life. DTs offer multiple applications that contribute to the challenges of today's bridge management. The important contribution includes the digitization of several steps in the current work process, reducing the number of transfers of data and information and the probability of inspection errors. Recommendations for future research concern increasing the population with regard to conducting interviews with stakeholders and experts in bridge management. Interviews with more engineers and experts from other engineering firms may lead to different insights and increase the generalizability of the research. Furthermore, it is recommended to start a pilot for both use cases in which a Proof of Concept (POC) is performed to validate whether the use cases are actually feasible in the current practice of bridge management. If the POC is found feasible, the implementation of the use cases can be started in various projects.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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