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INESC TEC creates the first “digital twin” of a power transformer

O INESC TEC is one of the partners of the Transformer 4.0 - Digital Revolution of Power Transformers, focusing on the development of a groundbreaking digital platform at national level, based on the concept of “digital twin”; the initiative focuses on the digital transformation of a power transformer's lifecycle.

24th September 2020

As energy generation and distribution methods evolve, all actors in this field must adapt to meet new global efficiency and sustainability standards. The era of smart grids requires new approaches, including the digitisation of energy networks’ assets, which implies a process of digital transformation of the sector, in its various dimensions. In this sense, the Transformer 4.0 project will have a crucial impact, in particular on the digital transformation of the lifecycle of power transformers: from preliminary design to product update, through operation and maintenance actions.

“Since it is a virtual and complete model of the physical system, the digital twin of the power transformer will enable innovative management and development models in the engineering, manufacturing and role of power transformers”, explained António Lucas Soares, coordinator INESC TEC’s Centre for Enterprise Systems Engineering (CESE).

The platform explored within the scope of the project relies on the concept of digital twin, and it will introduce a set of tools based on operational research techniques, artificial intelligence and information management, thus enabling the acquisition and management of new knowledge about the lifecycle of power transformers.

“A more precise lifecycle management, through the smart monitoring of the service condition, preventive maintenance and evaluation of the equipment’s aging, will not only contribute to significantly improve the engineering processes of transformers, but also to reach new business models ”, added the lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP). The project will also explore the digital production (3D printing) of some of the components of the power transformers.

“At a broader level, the research results of this project will hopefully facilitate and promote the central management of the product’s lifecycle and the creation of new business models based on the digital twin concept”, concluded António Lucas Soares.

A flagship project of MIT Portugal

The digital twin is a concept that has already been applied to other sectors e.g. automotive, construction or healthcare. This digital replica of a product or process allows obtaining data in real time, through sensors installed on objects, thus enabling the optimisation of their operation and the creation of knowledge for development actions and new products.

O Transformer 4.0 is one of the four flagship projects of the MIT Portugal international partnership for 2020, in the fields of Digital Transformation in Manufacturing and Sustainable Cities, and it will contribute to the economic and environmental sustainability in terms of production and operation of power transformers

Transformer 4.0 is an interdisciplinary research and development project that integrates skills in the fields of industrial and electrical engineering, information technology and management. In addition to CESE, the project includes researchers from the Centre for Industrial Engineering and Management and the Artificial Intelligence and Decision Support Laboratory of INESC TEC. The project partners include EFACEC (leader), the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (INEGI) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The Transformer 4.0 - Digital Revolution of Power Transformers project is co-funded by the ERDF –European Regional Development Fund (€2M), through the Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation - COMPETE 2020, the North Portugal Regional Operational Programme - NORTH 2020, and by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) - under the MIT Portugal Programme. The expected duration of the project 36 months, starting in July 2020.

The INESC TEC researcher mentioned in this news piece is associated with UP-FEUP.