With a century-old history, Italian high-end coffee machine manufacturer Gruppo Cimbali has used digital twins to do away with physical prototypes and lay the groundwork for creating an IoT-connected product as a service. Coffee shop customers probably don't pay much attention to the espresso machine on which the barista makes their morning coffee. But in fact, it's a marvel of technology that combines retro design with cutting-edge digital technology. It's a coffee machine that uses digital modeling in the process.

Before introducing the digital twin system, Gruppo Cimbali used computer-aided design and product lifecycle control software for a long time. The company was one of the first to complement its machines connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi with telemetry and data presentation systems.

Using the IoT network, information about the drink prepared on the machine is collected and entered into a database. Beverage quality analysis enables users to improve the daily management of dispensers. Previously, the manufacturer had simulated the operation of mechanical parts but could not affect several essential functions of the espresso machine, such as heat transfer and water pressure. The primary purpose of simulating the digital twin was to evaluate the functional characteristics of the entire system, including thermodynamics, electrics, and controls. 

These physical properties are not simple. It is essential to have the right balance between temperature and water pressure to make the perfect coffee. This depends on developing precise mechanical parts that control the heat exchange between the two. The production capacity of the fully automatic LaCimbali S60 is 600 cups per day, and every cup of coffee has to be perfect. 

The company was keen to use digital double simulation to collect and analyze data on energy savings, the number of cycles the machine can make, and the temperatures that can be achieved. These metrics affect how long a customer waits for their coffee cup, which has an impact on the overall customer experience. Before creating the digital twin, the principle of "trial and error" was used to test various parameters. But thanks to the virtual model, it was possible to reproduce many combinations to choose the most optimal configuration at the end. Thanks to this, Gruppo Cimbali reduced design time for new models in the Faema range by 30-40%.

Combining virtual and physical technologies

The most important task in creating digital twins turned out to be making a new culture: engineers, used to working with physical prototypes, had to be persuaded to trust the digital twin modeling.

 By the end of 2022, the company would like to implement digital twins in the cloud to make them available to customers. The availability of digital twins will also help on-site service technicians analyze the information collected on the physical machine versus the data stored in the cloud. Predictive analysis will help predict service calls and machine breakdowns. In the future, the company also plans to offer the product as a service, allowing it to take advantage of IoT connectivity. 

Gruppo Cimbali believes that digital twins are a success, as the time to market for the product has been reduced, its quality has improved, and the efficiency of the control process has improved. The consumer should perceive it as an aid to the engineers' work rather than a replacement for them.


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