Ergonomic Simulation Revisited Using Parametric Virtual Humans in the Biomechanical Framework

The conventional CAD/CAM approach to design does not show the essential spatial relationships between user and product that are crucial for intuitive design analysis. As populations age and the home appliance market stagnates, Universal Design principles implemented with computerized virtual worlds become more important for meeting the ergonomic problems of heterogeneous populations that are increasingly difficult to adequately test with real-world subjects. Digital Human Modelling (DHM) is an emerging area that bridges computer-aided engineering design, human factors engineering and applied ergonomics. The most advanced forms of this technology are being used by many researchers for practical applications, including ergonomic analysis. However, a state of the art model of this technology has never been conceived for the conceptual design stage of a product development cycle as most conventional DHM techniques lack real time interaction, require considerable user intervention, and have inefficient control facilities and non-adequate validation techniques, all contributing to slow production pipelines. They have also not addressed the needs of the growing ageing population in many societies across the globe. The focus of this dissertation is to introduce a complete framework for ergonomic simulation at the conceptual design stage of a product development cycle based on parametric virtual humans in a prioritized inverse kinematics framework while taking biomechanical knowledge in to account. Using an intuitive control facility, design engineers can input a simple CAD model, design variables and human factors in to the system. The evaluation engine generates the required simulation in real-time by making use of an Anthropometric Database, Physical Characteristic Database and Prioritized Inverse Kinematics architecture. The key components of the total system are described and the results are demonstrated with a few applications such as kitchen, wash-basin and bath-tub. By introducing a quantitative estimation of ageing algorithm for anthropometric digital human models, products can be designed from the start to suit the ergonomic needs of the user rather than the biases and assumptions of the designer. Also, by creating a tool that can be used intuitively by non-specialists in a dynamic, real-time environment, designers can stop relying on specialists to test the safety of their ideas and start to effectively use data about populations to discover designs that can be used more easily by more people. Results have been validated with real human subjects indicating the practical implication of the total system as an ergonomic design tool for the conceptual design stage of a product development cycle.

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