Tuesday, March 24, 2009

3D Human Modeling

I don't know if this is new, or just new to me. There are plenty of applications that allow a user to insert a human representation into their CAD design in order to visualize fit. But, most of those representations are just dumb models, inserted to get a picture of scale; they are not necessarily a usable functional check. Certainly, CATIA and other other high end CAD packages have had 3D Human Models for quite a while, and their manufacturing/processing applications even allow a certain degree of manipulation. The obvious one that comes to mind is the automotive industry and the use of 3D models to verify driver's view prior to fabricating prototypes.

But PTC also makes a Manikin Extension for Wildfire. This extension allows full manipulation of the human model within the CAD model to determine fit and interaction with the proposed design. I have no cost for the extension pack, but it certainly is nice to see a full-featured human modeling application within a mid-range CAD package. Hopefully we'll see more from the likes of Solid Edge and Solidworks - more than just downloading human approximate models from 3D Content Central.

PTC's website does not readily show how the manikins are defined (but I did get the image from them via a Google search). Do they follow MIL-HDBK-743? Does it only contain a 50th-percentile man and woman? What about 10% or 90%? And we can't forget about ADA compliant models. What about models with missing limbs or digits, or perhaps are wheelchair bound?

I think the next evolution in 3D Human Modeling is taking the manikin and have it interact with the CAD model in such a way as to verify Human Factors, like those published in MIL-HDKB-1908, MIL-HDBK-46855, and MIL-STD-1472. If we can have realistic looking humans in virtual worlds and video games interacting, why can't we have them for engineering designs?