Virtual Manikins and immersive design reviews are the perfect fit for ergonomic analysis

Design reviews are a critical part of the product development lifecycle- teams need to meet regularly to undertake review activities, make changes to a design, and identify any issues before they can move onto the next stage.

Traditionally, design reviews involve looking at 3D data on a 2D screen, which can prove difficult to apply physical context and scale to a model, and can lead to oversights and misunderstandings with some of the detail. When this part of the review is complete, 3D prototypes are usually produced and the design review process starts again.

As an iterative process, this can become quite a time consuming and costly stage of the overall product development.

But once the final design iteration has been approved, the focus switches to production.  

Although many modern manufacturing assembly processes are now automated, most still rely on a degree of human input to ensure operations can run smoothly. So organisations need to make sure that designs and factory layouts are optimised to enable people to work safely and comfortably without compromising on process and planning efficiency.  

Don’t ignore the workforce

Human factors and ergonomics are now considered as a central part of design and should be integral to the initial stages of the design review process.

Concerned with the ‘fit’ between the user, equipment, and environment, human factors and ergonomics is the application of psychological and physiological principles to the engineering and design of products, processes, and systems with the objective being to reduce the likelihood of human error, lower overall lifecycle costs, improve safety and enhance system performance.

Conducting an ergonomic analysis enables critical consideration to be given to three key areas:  

  • Human factors: such as seat size, reach to control, access panels, buttons, interfaces, dimensions, motion 
  • Task design: such as management of order of tasks, ease of use, information overload 
  • Machine design: such as mechanical arrangements for access and service 

But all too often these considerations are introduced at too late a stage when production is already underway. Not including a detailed human factor analysis can lead to increased risk of injury to employees and an unsafe working environment.

Addressing the results of an analysis as an afterthought can also result in costly and time-consuming changes, which can ultimately cascade down through the product lifecycle and cause even more delays further down the line. The risks associated with poor human factors can best be avoided by identifying potential issues as early as possible in the design review process and continuing to update and resolve them throughout.

But if your design review is being carried out in 2D on a computer screen, how are you supposed to give full consideration to the practicalities of any human involvement?

Using immersive technology to combine real people and virtual designs

Immersive visualisation technology is changing the way that engineering data can be accessed and worked with, and design reviews are an ideal way to harness all the benefits of these innovative technologies. Using a HMD (head mounted display), or a larger Powerwall or CAVE system to project models on enables users to visualise and interact with their 3D models in context and at scale- the way they’re supposed to be.

The spatial context of a design can be applied to demonstrate new ideas and address problems that would be difficult to explain out-of-context. Which is why it makes perfect sense to bring the human factor element of a design in at this early point.

Immersive visualisation lends itself to ergonomic analysis as it enables the inclusion of 1:1 scale virtual manikins to represent the real people who will be involved.

Manikins can be manipulated and positioned (using Inverse Kinematics (IK) and Forward Kinematics (FK)) into relevant and representative poses that are within a human's usual range of motion to answer any questions of reach, fit, and access. The dimensions of manikins can be scaled so that height and limb lengths can be altered to be representative of the person who will be required to physically carry out a task.

Ergonomic analysis is based around using anthropometric data as standard measurements, and virtual manikins allow precise point to point measurements, both across the model itself and between the manikin and the surrounding environment. Engineers and Human Factors specialists can easily measure the manikin and refer back to anthropometric data to match design specifications. 

Using innovative technology combined with well executed processes and systems can help to achieve the goals of high productivity and quality while ensuring health and safety.

Adding manikins to your design review

The latest release of Virtalis’ flagship Visionary Render software includes the addition of 1:1 scale manikins. Visionary Render is an enterprise-ready software solution that enables users to import engineering data assets, build bespoke virtual scenes and interact with their models in an immersive visualisation environment. In a virtual scene, colleagues can collaborate either locally or remotely on tasks such as design reviews, layout planning, training, operations, maintenance and more. Through engaging teams at every step of a products lifecycle, more ambitious projects can be delivered with reduced cost and risk. 

Get in touch to arrange a demo and discover the benefits of the manikins feature. https://www.virtalis.com/request-a-demo