The Ergonomics of Clumsiness

By Therese

433px-Schweizerhaus18 wikiA funny thing happened last weekend when my husband and I were out, sans kids, enjoying a nice dinner. A very obnoxious patron was seated nearby, demanding faster service by the already efficient waiter. I watched as the waiter skillfully weaved in and out of tables, taking fast turns around corners, all-the-while balancing a huge try full of plates and water glasses, in order to meet the patron at the table quickly. I’m by nature a clumsy person so his ability to move fluidly without dropping anything off the tray amazed me.

Then it happened.

An unexpected obstacle appeared: another customer, unaware, stretched his legs right in the way of the approaching waiter. I gasped when I realized he was milliseconds away from imminent disaster. I obviously didn’t give the waiter enough credit because he must have caught sight of the foot, stepped over it and appeared at the obnoxious patron’s table with everything intact. “Incredible,” I remarked to my husband, adding that it wouldn’t have been horrible if food landed on that annoying guy.

Then we got talking about how good the waiter was. His structured movement, ability to weave around tables and avoid collisions, keeping all obstacles and people away from any accidents was truly impressive! It got me thinking about how similar a waiter is to a production worker in manufacturing.

Seriously, there are commonalities. Think about it.

In both instances people (industry workers and waiters) move objects, both often use the same muscles (arms) through repetitive use, work directly with physical objects (machinery or dinner plates), need to time their movements (with equipment versus a waiter bringing food to the table).

We then chatted about simulating the waiter’s movements ahead of time. Okay maybe that part is a little out there, but there is no doubt that accidents can be avoided if you simulate a pattern and movements ahead of time.

Our waiter got lucky, but worker safety is indeed an important topic in manufacturing. That thought brings me back to a statistic I heard on a conference call recently where more than 1 million accidents occur each year in the Energy sector alone. How much safer can manufacturing environments be if human movements and machine interactions are simulated ahead of time? 

Worker safety and Virtual Ergonomic in general will be one of the topics my friend and colleague Julie Charland will discuss at an upcoming conference– the AEC (Applied Ergonomics Conference) the week of March 22.

I can’t wait to find out how it goes and will be sure to blog about. Now, if only I could bring Virtual Ergonomics into my own life. Maybe that would make me less clumsy!

Meanwhile, check out this Virtual Ergo showing worker movements.

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What do you think about this?



Therese SnowTherese Snow works for Dassault Systèmes’ DELMIA brand.

The Creepy Side of 3D Indoor Mapping

By Kate
Photo by Andrew Balet

Photo by Andrew Balet

Last night I read an article about Nokia’s plans to develop 3D indoor mapping for Ovi.  Creeperific!

Ok not fair, let me think through this a bit . . .

The Outside

We’re already pretty good at 3D outdoor mapping.  I remember a few years back when Stephen Lawler presented Microsoft Virtual Earth at ECF.  How Microsoft was droning major cities around the planet to record real 3D topographies for digital use.  Here’s where they are today.

There also exist industry applications/mutations of 3D “outdoor mapping”.  For example with handheld devices such as Noomeo’s Optinum you can scan a 3D map of your head.  Such 3D scanner devices enable you to record 3D maps of large structures like ships.  This is useful in the worlds of 3D CAD and PLM.

None of these outdoor categories seem creepy to me.

Now let’s take 3D indoor mapping first from an industry perspective.

The Inside

Think medical devices and life sciences.  3D ultrasounds.  Building a mechanically accurate 3D model of the human foot .  I’m sure you can think of other examples.

What about 3D virtual events?  We’ve 3D indoor mapped the French Virtual Pavillion that will be for-real shown at the Shanghai World Expo.

How about inside your home?  With 3DVIA Shape you can 3D indoor map your kitchen, which as Cliff explains is pretty handy for making decisions with your dearest.

Not creepy.  This stuff is helpful.

So what would be some advantages to Nokia’s 3D indoor mapping offer?

1) It’s a step towards democratizing indoor 3D mapping (not everyone has an iPhone).

2) You can get familiar with public places like museums before you visit and build smarter, more precise itineraries.

3) 3D-savvy bank robbers can get a better feel for theft scenarios (if you have an evil, greedy side, forget I said this) ;-)

4) Fill in the blank.  ___________________ What benefits do you see?  3D indoor mapping is good for what purpose?



Sound Bits – from LMS Engineering Simulation Conference 2010

By Michael


I’ve been to the LMS User Conference held in Munich and it has been fun being indulged in real-life engineering challenges as they were presented by leading contenders in the manufacturing industry, e.g. from Boeing, Renault, PSA, Liebherr, Piaggio, Iveco, Alena Aeronautica, Toyota, BMW, Daimler, Continental, BSH, Behr, John Deere, EADS, Safran and others.

Unisono they reported about their challenges that are constantly increasing with more functionality and complexity being introduced into the products, still more model variants, while at the same time new tough “green” requirements are added (that’s good for us: less energy consumption and pollution), and once again the economical constraints not really relaxing …

To illustrate the point I pick one single topic from the many, and want to reflect on the presentation delivered by Dr. Bernd Pletschen of Daimler AG. He and his team are responsible for designing the sound experience of car buyers and users (also referred to as psychoacoustics).

Now, it seems that Daimler has a “luxury problem”. With the elevated prices of their brand (his words) he states that the driver’s impression always needs to be a luxurious one in order to justify the buy of a Mercedes car. As his company plans to reduce the use of physical prototypes by 40%, his department needs to compensate and improve acoustics / noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) simulation for optimal sound design – via virtual prototypes – and validated via physical tests.

Interesting questions arise:

  • What defines the perception of sound?
  • What makes it a pleasant experience – or makes it unpleasant noise?
  • Is this perception equal for all – independent of sex, culture, age?

Er, sorry … no …  It seems that sounds mean different things to different people.

There are different sources of noise with a vehicle which add up to a global experience. Dr. Pletschen talked about sound engineering disciplines and what could be the perception of “luxury sounds”:

Aeroacoustics:   “Playing with the wind”
Power-train sound:   “Reassuring power”
Intake/exhaust noise:   “Quiet and pleasant”
Road noise:   “Enjoy comfortable gliding”

How does this engine sound appeal to you ?

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… or these?

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Another challenge comes with the change-over of sound patterns when switching from traditional  gas engines to electric engines (lacking the so familiar “start and idle” noise – however adding high frequency noises coming from the e-engine), yet over to fuel-cell cars on the horizon.

How to maintain the luxury sound perception within these paradigm shifts?

On another angle, the (missing) electric engine sound may pose a problem to pedestrians:

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Maybe this could be the solution?

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Just kidding!

More seriously, with engineering challenges like the ones described it shows that manufacturers look for more and more complete simulation schemes to support their product development. They certainly welcome every simulation technology contribution and innovation from their solution partners. This is true for the acoustics domain but nonetheless for the many other domains with their own specific challenges.

As you may know, LMS is a long-time partner in the Dassault Systèmes Alliance Program community – and product integrations exist with CATIA (LMS.Virtual.Lab is based on CATIA’s 3D core) and SIMULIA Abaqus. You can check out noise & vibration simulation, sound engineering and other engineering simulation solutions provided by LMS in their section on the DS website, on the PLM MarketPlace or the LMS website.

From the LMS event I conclude, that with the agenda for a greener future set, manufacturers are challenged to manage a set of increasing requirements, while maintaining / improving user experiences.  To master this, realistic simulation becomes a necessity for them.

Soon more – from the wonderful world of engineering.



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