Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Optimizes Digital Human-Product Interactions

PTC announced the launch of Pro/ENGINEER Manikin, a 3D digital human modeling solution that enables design teams to add a digital human model to a CAD product model to simulate and communicate human-product interactions. Two new modules, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension and Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension, provide ergonomic and human factors analysis capabilities for customers of Pro/ENGINEER, PTC’s parametric 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software and a key component of the PTC Product Development System. By accelerating detailed design processes and reducing the need for expensive physical prototypes, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin helps customers create innovative, winning products with faster time-to-market, improved quality and reduced costs.

“PTC’s new manikin software is notable for its tight integration with Pro/ENGINEER. Pro/ENGINEER Manikin brings digital human visualization and simulation to the engineer’s desktop within the CAD user interface and without the need for the engineer to be a human factors expert,” said John MacKrell, senior analyst, CIMdata. “This is a very impressive first step for PTC for supporting a human-centric design approach. Pro/ENGINEER Manikin will enable customers to better optimize their products for the people who will use, manufacture and maintain them.”

Pro/ENGINEER Manikin, the industry’s first ISO standards-based solution, provides comprehensive, easy-to-use, capabilities to simulate and communicate human-product interactions for a global population. Highlights of Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension and Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension include:

Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension

  • Quickly insert, customize, and manipulate accurate, standards-based 3D human models
  • Create human reach envelopes and vision cones to understand what limitations may exist in a design
  • Gain a first-person perspective of a product and “see” what the manikin can “see”
  • Accelerate design by leveraging libraries of global populations and manikin postures
Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension
  • Simulate, communicate and optimize manual handling tasks by validating them against published standards and guidelines
  • Ensure conformance with health and safety guidelines and ergonomic standards. Includes standard algorithms for analyzing workplace tasks including lifting and lowering (NIOSH 81/91), pulling and pushing (Snook), energy expenditure (GARG), and posture (RULA)
  • Analyze designs faster with simplified workflows to posture the manikin and reuse saved postures and analysis settings
  • Leverage advanced reporting capabilities of analysis results earlier in the development process to deliver products designed and optimized for humans in less time
Additionally, beginning in December 2008, basic manikin capabilities that enable users to insert a pre-defined manikin into a CAD model and easily manipulate the posture to gain an understanding of how a human would fit or interact with a proposed design will be included in all Pro/ENGINEER packages at no additional charge for those customers on the latest maintenance release of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0.

“The new capabilities introduced in Pro/ENGINEER Manikin will dramatically improve our ability to design innovative products for our customers. These same features are also applicable to considerations for improvements in the manufacture, assembly and service of our products. The vision cones, reach envelopes and other human factors analysis capabilities provide valuable insight earlier in the product design and development process,” states Patrick Hodgins, chief engineer, Callaway Cars. “The seamless integration with Pro/ENGINEER and ease of use will also help accelerate adoption of the product. These new modules will enable our company to reduce time-to-market and decrease physical prototyping costs.”

“Having the capability to perform human-product interactions early in the development cycle supports innovation and helps optimize the design process,” said Michael Campbell, senior vice president, product management, PTC. “Allowing design engineers to know how a customer will physically interact with a product during the design process enables them to design products that will be optimized for their target audience. This technology enables customers to create safer, more comfortable and more usable products, while at the same time reduce the typical, costs associated with prototyping. Pro/ENGINEER Manikin underscores PTC’s ongoing commitment to delivering superior technology and value to our customers.”

Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension and free, basic manikin capabilities available to all customers on the latest release of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 and later are expected to be available in December 2008 in English, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

With the current state of the manufacturing economy, human factors and ergonomics seem to have taken a back seat to other productivity, profit-making, and survival issues, but they are vitally important, nonetheless, and PTC has taken it to heart with Pro/ENGINEER Manikin.

With so much human capital available these days you might ask, “Why use digital humans?” The same question could also be posed about robotics, but that’s another topic for another day. Digital humans are used to study man-machine interaction and can refer to the control of machines in general using devices like a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or a button on a production machine.

Ergonomics is concerned with designing according to human needs, and the discipline applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and system performance. Ergonomic research studies human capabilities and relationships to work demands. Information derived from these studies contributes to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments, and systems to make them compatible with the needs, abilities, and limitations of people.

The five generally accepted areas of ergonomics include safety, comfort, ease of use, productivity/performance, and aesthetics. Based on these ergonomic areas, products or systems can benefit from initial design or redesign based on ergonomic principles.
Companies in many industries are facing the same problem of the human element not being considered early or thoroughly enough in product design, assembly, and maintenance. This historical lack of consideration is having an increasingly negative impact on product cost, time to market, quality, and safety.

Luckily, though, ergonomics seems to be moving away from a reactive approach, where jobs that cause injuries are modified, to a proactive approach that emphasizes assessing each job for feasibility and safety as a product, workplace, and processes are designed. Some aspects of job design can be reduced to a checklist or a set of numerical criteria, such as maximum lifting weight or a maximum part insertion force. But when the potential problem includes an awkward posture or a difficult reach, a more demanding analysis is necessary. This is exactly where software representations of humans, digital human models, are becoming more widely used to perform the analyses for these more complex tasks.

The largest market and application for digital human models are automotive and aerospace vehicle design. Physical mockups are being replaced with virtual prototypes that are assessed using digital humans as drivers, passengers, production and maintenance personnel. Starting in the 1970s, many of the early human modeling tools were developed by the U.S. military and its contractors for aircraft cockpit design. Since then, automotive manufacturers have extensively used human models as a vital part of the digital design process – concept through production.

Until I saw this announcement by PTC, the “guy” that came to mind whenever I thought about digital humans was Tecnomatix (now a part of Siemens PLM Software) Jack – a digital man (and Jill – a digital woman) – a human modeling and simulation software package for improving the ergonomics of product designs and workplace tasks. With digital humans like Jack and Jill you can:
  • Build a virtual environment
  • Create a virtual human
  • Define a human's size and shape
  • Position the human in an environment
  • Assign human tasks
  • Analyze how a human performs
Digital humans can provide great utility during all phases and aspects of the product development process, including (but not limited to) product design, manufacture, maintenance, and training. During the product design process, human simulation allows you to explore general operation and interaction, positioning and comfort, and visibility. In the manufacturing phase, digital humans let you check out workcell layout, workflow simulation, energy expenditure, physical requirements assessment, and safety analysis. In the maintenance stage of the product lifecycle, human simulation allows you to assess maintenance accessibility, as well as part removal and replacement and the physical and visual characteristics needed to carry out these tasks. Finally, digital human simulation data can be reused for manufacturing and maintenance training purposes.

For a growing number of companies I see factoring the human element into design, manufacturing, and maintenance as no longer just an afterthought, but as an integral requirement, strategy, and competitive advantage. Companies that have employed digital humans, such as Manikin and Jack are already or will likely realize benefits, such as shorter design time, lower development costs, improved quality, increased productivity, and enhanced safety. All reasons to give digital humans more than a probationary period, and “hire” them on as adjunct “employees.” Digital humans will never replace the real thing, but they can make life on the job easier, safer, and more fulfilling.

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