power transformer
Image: EFACEC

The first power transformer digital twin should lead to improved lifecycle knowledge and management.

Four research organizations from Portugal and the US are collaborating to develop a platform focussed on the digital transformation of a power transformer’s lifecycle.

The platform, based on the concept of the ‘digital twin’, will create a digital replica or ‘twin’ of the full lifecycle of the transformer from preliminary design through operation and maintenance to product updating.

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The project is a first for a power transformer. It is expected to contribute to the economic and environmental sustainability of the production and operation of these devices.

“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,” explains António Lucas Soares, coordinator of INESC TEC’s Centre for Enterprise Systems Engineering (CESE), one of the research partners.

The project ‘Transformer 4.0 – Digital Revolution of Power Transformers’ is a flagship of the MIT Portugal partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Portuguese research institutions and government. In addition to INESC TEC, other partners in Transformer 4.0 are EFACEC and the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (INEGI).

The platform will incorporate a set of tools based on operational research techniques, artificial intelligence and information management. These should enable the acquisition and management of new knowledge on the lifecycle of power transformers.

The project will also explore digital production/3D printing of some of the components of power transformers.

“A more precise lifecycle management, through the smart monitoring of the service condition, preventive maintenance and evaluation of the equipment’s ageing, will contribute not only to significantly improve the engineering processes of transformers, but also to reach new business models,” continues Soares.

The implementation of digital twins of power devices is expected to become increasingly important in the ongoing digitization and development of the smart grid. Applications include optimization of operations and maintenance and new product development.

Transformer 4.0 is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, North Portugal Regional Operational Programme and Portugal’s Foundation for Science and Technology. The expected duration is 36 months, starting in July 2020.