Aircrafts and spacecrafts tend to require the optimum performance and reliability of components, materials, and - of course - of the humans involved.
While virtual prototyping of technical systems has been available for decades, the AnyBody Modeling System™ is a giant step forward in analysis of the full complexity of human mechanics in conjunction with an environment. This opens up an entirely new and huge potential for improvement of performance and comfort of crew and passenger alike.
Both the European Space Agency's Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Wyle Laboratories are using AnyBody to improve the endurance of astronauts and comfort of space shuttles.
The performance of a pilot is crucial to the safety of the passengers and payload and, in military applications, to the success of the mission. Even with very careful selection of pilots, the human performance is now the bottleneck in many aircrafts. This makes the design of the cockpit environment a key factor.
With musculoskeletal simulation it is possible to assess the influence of the design parameters on pilot fatigue and aircraft operability. You can figure out whether the pilot will be able to move the hand from point A to point B when pulling 7g, and you can assess the possible accuracy of a handle operation.
For instance, flying a rescue helicopter in difficult weather conditions requires the utmost precision, and the placement and feedback of pedals and handles play an important role. AnyBody allows for optimization of kinematics as well as force feedback of these systems in terms of operability.
Space and weight are crucial factors in the design of any aircraft. Both of them translate directly into cost, and any passenger in the coach section of an international flight can vouch for the fact that the shortage of space can make flying a taxing experience in terms of comfort and fatigue.
Getting in and out of seats, sitting in cramped spaces for many hours, and loading heavy bags into overhead bins are just a few of the cases that are difficult or fatiguing for young and fit people and may be downright impossible for elderly or impaired individuals.
The good news is that with musculoskeletal modeling as AnyBody offers, the consequences of the design of the environment can be assessed and optimized: the dimensions of hinge mechanisms in overhead bins for easy closing; the placement of assistive handles and support points for entering and exiting a seat row; or the support profile of a seat and the kinematic compatibility of its adjustments with the human body.
While space flight and the experience of weightless conditions remains an exciting dream for most people, it is no picnic for an astronaut. Experiments have shown that the human body can lose as much as two percent of its bone mass per month in microgravity conditions.
Similarly, studies have shown a reduction of up to 20 percent of the mass of antigravity muscles in space missions lasting only 11 days. There is a good reason why we see astronauts being carried out of the capsule upon return from an extended space mission.
It is believed that the loss of bone and muscle mass is related to the lack of gravitational forces on the body. So one of the countermeasures is to subject the astronauts during the mission to exercise of the structures that normally carry gravity. But precisely how can we fool the body into believing that gravity is still active?
It is impossible or very difficult to measure the forces inside the human body, but musculoskeletal simulation can predict these forces with good accuracy and can in fact be used to devise exercises and equipment loading the bone and muscle structures as closely as possible to the gravity of our natural environment.