From digital twin to virtual manikin : how the industry is changing

Throughout decades, the industry got better and better aiming to be more productive. The 21st century is the era of new technologies that are becoming an essential tool in the race for innovation. Virtual reality and the digital transformations it provoked has played a crucial role in this mutation. Digital twin and virtual manikin are two technologies which represent industry 4.0 and calls for a healthier and more balanced collaboration between humans and machines.

How can digital twin and virtual manikins help industrial operators work better?


Digital twin and virtual manikin: definition and differences

Digital twin and virtual manikin are two different technologies, but complementary. They are both virtual simulations: one of an object or physical system, the other of a person.


Digital twin: hyper-realistic reproductions for industry

A digital twin is the virtual copy of an object, a process or even a system.

The physical element in question is digitally reproduced within a virtual environment, with its characteristics, its features, as well as its behavior. To generate the virtual simulation, sensors are placed on the physical object and send data in real-time. Therefore, the digital twin keeps updating itself to reproduce the same behavior as its real twin brother or sister.

The digital twin technology is widely used in the industrial field, especially in aeronautics and aerospatial.

SkyReal for instance, collaborated with ArianeGroup on the Ariane 6 project. During this collaboration, a digital copy of the launcher was made and could be viewed at 1:1 scale with a virtual reality headset.

Recently, digital twins have also appeared in the health sector. It’s a virtual copy of organs from the human body, which are dedicated to predictive medicine and the manufacture of medical devices.


Virtual manikin: the future of the industry?

Virtual manikins first appeared in the fashion world. They take the form of supermodels and brands use them to present their clothing collections.

The virtual manikin made it in the industry through automotive where it is used to control ergonomics inside a car. The technology was then extended to other industrial sectors as a tool for machine design and maintenance.

Unlike a digital twin, a virtual manikin is not really a copy. The idea isn’t to represent someone in particular, but to generate a human in a digital form. The virtual manikin then becomes a puppet, which we control its every movements, thanks to a virtual reality headset.


Digital twin and virtual manikin: what benefits for the industry?

Digital twin and virtual manikin are two different technologies on many points. Nevertheless, they are also complementary in their uses. It’s entirely possible to imagine joining a virtual manikin to a digital twin. In their advantages, the two technologies are also very similar.


The Digital Twin to evaluate the efficiency and safety of workstations

Usually, the virtual manikin is used with an objective of optimizing the real work environment through a virtual hands-on experience.

It turns out that our SkyReal VR solution includes a virtual mannequin option. You can generate virtual manikins, change their equipment and their postures. Therefore, it’s possible to test access to certain controls and analyze the impact on the operator’s health.

At the end, the software generates a report that indicates the areas of the body most solicited by the gesture performed.

The ergonomic report functionnality of SkyReal allows the compilation of positions, helping to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and optimize maintenance routines

As industry is a vector of musculoskeletal disorders, it is important to monitor this data.

By knowing the data relating to operator health risks in advance, companies can better manage musculoskeletal disorders using the virtual manikin.

They can check the ergonomics of a production line or that of a future workstation, anticipate work accidents or even muscular fatigue of employees.


The digital twin to anticipate maintenance and improve the final production

Digital twin technology is a production and maintenance support tool. It allows an operator in a virtual environment to identify a potential and upcoming malfunction on a physical object.

Thus, operators can integrate any new machine into their production process thanks to it digital twin. The idea being to understand it better before having to work on it.

Also, it is possible to carry out predictive maintenance thanks to a data flow which would be send by a physical object and received in real time by its digital twin. Predictive maintenance can help a company save up to 50% on design, production and maintenance costs.

Virtual manikins can also be used to better anticipate machine maintenance and repair. By using a virtual manikin, we can check the ergonomics of a machine or a control panel before it’s made. his allows you to check the accessibility of an order, for example.

We can also test and determine a maintenance procedure upstream through its accessibility, duration and feasibility, to save time and money before delivery of the final product.

Virtual manikin and visualization of a complete maintenance procedure, via SkyReal


In the end, digital twin and virtual mannequin are two complementary technologies in use.

They both have a role to play in design engineering and industrial production to develop innovative, more efficient and profitable products.

In the race for innovation and competitiveness, companies that adopt these technologies will have a clear advantage.