DHI-Akselos partnership capitalizes on revolutionary digital twin technology developed at MIT

Learn about the partnership forged with MIT Startup Exchange between Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction and MIT STEX25 alum Akselos.

By: Daniel de Wolff

Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction (DHI) could have turned to any number of companies to implement digital twin technology in its gas turbines. A subsidiary of Doosan Group, DHI is a global player when it comes to manufacturing equipment for power plants. However, it zeroed in on Akselos, an ambitious MIT-connected software company. With MIT Startup Exchange brokering introductions, a successful trial project has since developed into a long-lasting, mutually beneficial partnership.

When the first compressor blade in a gas turbine engine exceeds its vibration limit, it can break off and damage the rest of the blades in the engine. Ultimately, blade displacement can destroy the compressor, causing catastrophic failure and the total shut down of a power plant. The costs associated with maintenance and downtime for such an event can run into the millions of dollars.

The business landscape is changing rapidly, and the combination of ILP and the Startup Exchange is unparalleled when it comes to connecting corporates to innovative startups that can help corporates to adapt to the challenges with new technologies.

Which is why, in 2017, DHI was on the hunt for an effective way to monitor, in real-time, the degradation of its gas turbines. But finding a technology that could consume data quickly enough to provide results demonstrating blade displacement proved to be a challenge. Until Luke Park, a senior research engineer at DHI, visited the Institute for a set of targeted introductions to MIT-connected startups organized by MIT Startup Exchange. Here he met Akselos' co-founder and CTO, Dr. David Knezevic, who explained his company's state-of-the-art reduced order modeling approach to digital twins, known as Reduce Basis Finite Element Analysis (RBFEA).

Knezevic helped develop the RBFEA method while completing his post-doctoral research at the Institute. Traditional digital twins use finite element analysis (FEA), which is too slow and computationally intensive to be used for sensor-integrated assets that require real-time decision-making. Akselos’ next-generation simulation technology is 1,000 times faster than conventional simulation technology and provides unprecedented power. It helps guard critical infrastructure by creating a virtual replica of an asset in its current environment, right down to the smallest detail, allowing operators to monitor a system’s condition in real-time, as well as predict what will happen in the future.

Since 2015, Akselos has been a member of MIT Startup Exchange, the MIT Corporate Relations program that combines with the MIT Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) to introduce corporates to MIT-connected startups. "There is no question that the MIT connection led us to work closely with Akselos; it is a stamp of credibility that the technology had been tried and tested at the Institute,” says Park. “The business landscape is changing rapidly, and the combination of ILP and the Startup Exchange is unparalleled when it comes to connecting corporates to innovative startups that can help corporates to adapt to the challenges with new technologies.”

The digital-twin-for-compressor-blade project was part software license, part research and development on the recently developed technology. The initial engagement was a success. And thanks to a larger, updated licensing agreement, Akselos’ digital twin tech is now being rolled out across a variety of DHI’s strategic production facilities to address engineering challenges in its nuclear power plants and the main components of its onshore and offshore wind energy systems.

“From our perspective, working with a premier player like DHI is an exciting opportunity with the right caliber of customer that recognizes this is bleeding-edge technology,” says John Bell, SVP of Sales for Akselos. “What’s more, they were keen to be involved in developing and steering the direction of it. That continues to this day—DHI is still an awesome contributor to where we take our product.”

The Akselos-DHI partnership exemplifies collaborations promoted by MIT Startup Exchange: the fusion of high-caliber talent and cutting-edge technology provided by an MIT-connected startup with a top-quality corporation seeking an injection of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.


About MIT Startup Exchange:

MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry, principally members of MIT ILP. Currently, more than 1,500 MIT-connected startups are registered with the MIT Startup Exchange. Each month, new additions are added to the ranks, helping to shape and define an innovative entrepreneurial community. The STEX25 accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange features startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth.