Frequently Asked Questions

DICE Questions and Answers:

DICE provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’S) as a service to stakeholders and others who are seeking information regarding DICE’s organization, standards, programs, and other activities.

What is DICE?

DICE serves as a virtual center to formalize and coordinate digital engineering, digital twinning, and digital transformation activities across next generation energy systems. DICE will serve the following key functions:

  • Leadership for a strategy on digital innovation for the world’s energy future
  • Recognition as a national center of excellence through research accomplishments
  • Capture of external and internal proposals with multi-directorate collaboration
  • Coordination to share community best practices across the laboratory
  • Promote multi-directorate scientific publications by center members
  • Outreach to universities, industry partners, and other national laboratories
  • Enhance training and education materials on digital engineering and digital twinning
What is Digital Engineering?

Digital engineering (DE) is a deliberate approach to integrating information for the life cycle of a megaproject. DE uses digital information management systems to design, engineer, build, operate, maintain and retire complex megaprojects. Engineering teams can migrate to new digital engineering ecosystems by developing new data models (ontologies), data sharing methods, tool architectures and processes. 

Which industries use Digital Engineering?

DE is routine in aerospace, automotive and other industries to realize significant savings, quality and schedule improvements. Examples:

  • Mortenson Construction realized a 600-day schedule savings and 25% productivity increase using virtual design and construction (VDC) technologies over 416 projects
  • Boeing has used integrated digital tools since the 1990s. By troubleshooting a digital replica (or digital twin) on the Boeing 777X program, the company achieved a 40% improvement in parts manufactured correctly the first time
What are some examples of Digital Engineering?
  • Using 3D models to help analyze geotechnical elements and enable the development of virtual and augmented reality solutions
  • Building a value chain that is connected, collaborative, and efficient, contributing to improvements in performance
  • Creating an authoritative source of truth (AST), agreed upon and shared by key players before, during, and after the asset creation process
  • Deploying 3D and 4D (3D plus time sequencing) models that enhance constructability reviews and stakeholder engagement and buy-in
What are some examples of Digital Engineering at INL?

A good example is the Versatile Test Reactor project. INL researchers began using digital engineering in 2018 to help design the VTR, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility capable of performing large-scale tests and experiments, with collaborators from other national labs and industry. Here is what this work entails:

  • Cloud-based Collaboration 

Numerous advances in the VTR design and engineering processes have already been achieved using DE. The national VTR team has engineers across the United States using computationally expensive tools. INL’s new cloud-based platform allows real-time collaboration across geographic regions so that national laboratory, industry and university partners can access VTR information quickly and securely. This technology has reduced latency by a factor of 100 during peak use. The VTR is the first DOE nuclear program using cloud computing to reduce technical barriers such as latency and computer performance.

  • Digital Modeling

A 3D model of the VTR was developed in the first three months of the project – 10 times faster than similar past efforts. For VTR, North Carolina State University developed a method to automate mesh creation for 3D modeling. The resulting 3D model makes it possible to automate seismic and pipe stress analysis, an industry first that will boost accuracy and efficiency. 

  • Integrated Design & Construction 

To capture integrated 2D and 3D models of the plant, the VTR uses a virtual design and construction (VDC) and Building Information Management (BIM) tool from conceptual design through construction. A nuclear ontology (DIAMOND) connects object types across the nuclear construction ecosphere, allowing real-time access to how changes in construction will affect requirements. For example, plant managers will be able to conduct near real-time reviews of how construction changes can affect seismic performance. The methodology will be applied to a broad set of performance factors. 

  • Information Management 

A tool that uses data to generate documentation has driven a culture change. The Records and Information Management (RIM) tool helps ensure the requirements process is based upon essential information needs. The program captures requirements, risks and tests in a fully integrated database to understand the full impact of changes. Research conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University will automate discovery of missing links, find incorrect object types and automate traditionally manual processes. 

  • Integrated Modeling 

Integrating modeling codes rather than running modeling and simulations independently can increase the efficiency of experimental design. TerraPower developed the Advanced Reactor Modeling Interface (ARMI) to enable such integration. This software framework will be integrated into the VTR’s digital engineering databases through Colorado School of Mines and TerraPower research.

What is a Digital Twin?

A digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.

What is the difference between Digital Engineering, Digital Twin, and Digital Thread?

A digital thread is an interconnected software exchange of data. This digital thread technology is used to enable digital engineering and digital twinning systems. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physically operating asset. Digital Engineering embodies a deliberate transformational approach to the way systems are designed, engineered, constructed, operated, maintained, and retired: digital twins can be thought of as a subset of digital engineering. 

Can external organizations work with DICE?

Absolutely. INL is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national lab complex and regularly works with collaborators. With its top-flight pool of software designers and engineers, INL is in a unique position to offer an open “agnostic” approach. “As a national lab, we don’t want to be picking winners or be beholden to a single vendor,” says DICE Director Chris Ritter. “We just want to enable the best tools for each particular job.”

How do I join DICE?

Please contact the DICE director, [email protected] if you would like to join the center.

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