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Editor’s Pick: Virtual Manikins Simulate Human-Product Interactions

By Anthony J. Lockwood

Any engineer with kids knows the humbling experience of trying to assemble some toy you got them. It seems that the words "easy to assemble" emblazoned on side of the box are code meaning "best assembled by an octopus." Human factors engineering failures abound: stick shifts as big as a railroad tie, airplane passenger seats, machinery with controls only basketball players can reach, and so on. That’s why I really appreciated PTC’s introduction of Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension.

Pro/ENGINEER Manikin is intended to make human factors engineering a part of your design process, not an afterthought when the complaints come in. It lets you add a 3D human-like manikin into your model and then simulate the interaction of humans with your product. And not just any human character: big ones, short ones, males, and females, all globalized for local standards. With your manikin, you can check things like, say, your small female manikin’s field of vision or reach. You can select your character’s posture, and you can send your manikin through a range of movements to see how easy it is to operate a machine or assemble some product.

And you don’t have to be a human factors expert. Pro/ENGINEER Manikin is designed to slip right in the Pro/ENGINEER design process. (For that matter and beginning in December, the basic version will be slipped right in as standard component of all Pro/ENGINEER packages at no additional charge for those of you with the latest maintenance release of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0.) Better yet, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin is an ISO standards-based solution, an industry first according to PTC.

In addition to the basic version, PTC will offer Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension. This version lets you simulate, communicate, and optimize manual handling tasks by validating them against published standards and guidelines. It has standard algorithms for analyzing such workplace tasks as lifting and lowering, pulling and pushing, energy expenditure, and posture. You can also save and reuse postures and analysis settings.

All that neat stuff is covered in today’s Pick of the Week write-up. While there, click on the URL to the registration-free (and very brief) video to get an idea of how simple Pro/ENGINEER Manikin is to use and how powerful it could be for you. Just the potential cost reductions in physical prototypes and human testing alone is worth the investigation.

Now, dummies like me always wrestle with machinery, and my family loves to patronize me as I rant about the human factors design failures of yet another machine I’ve failed to tame. But, I’m serious, some machines seem designed to be operated only by the person who designed them. PTC’s Pro/ENGINEER Manikin and Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension can help you design innovative products for your customers that they can use safely and easily. As a bonus, your tech support people will spend less time on the phone with irate knuckleheads like me.

About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.