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Virtual Manikins Simulate Human-Product Interactions

By Margaret S. Gurney


The Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension module is designed to help designers see and analyze interactions between people, products, and workstations.

Once a product is designed for human use, companies can now ensure that their products will work the way they were intended for the people for whom they were designed. PTC (Needham, MA) has engineered a new digital human-modeling simulation solution, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin, which can be tailored to portray real-world applications. Pro/ENGINEER Manikin enables design teams to add a 3D digital human model to a CAD product model to simulate and communicate human-product interactions.

With two new modules, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension and Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension, ergonomic and human factors analysis capabilities greet customers of Pro/ENGINEER, PTC’s parametric 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software.

“PTC Pro/ENGINEER Manikin is a unique approach to addressing the challenge of human-product interactions because it was designed, developed, and tested specifically for the design engineer.”
— Michael M. Campbell, PTC, SVP Product Management, Desktop Products

By communicating human-product interactions, Pro/ENGINEER Manikin serves to both accelerate detailed design processes and reduce the need for expensive physical prototypes, thereby helping create products with faster time-to-market, improved quality, and reduced costs.

Highlights of the Modules
Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension enables designers to quickly insert, customize, and manipulate accurate, standards-based 3D human models. Plus, they can create human vision cones and reach envelopes to understand what limitations may exist in a design.

Using the Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Extension, designers can see fields of vision and reach.

The software also lets users gain a first-person perspective of a product and “see” what the manikin can “see” as well as accelerate design by leveraging libraries of global populations and manikin postures.


Using the Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension module, designers can simulate and analyze human-product interactions such as pulling and pushing.

In the Pro/ENGINEER Manikin Analysis Extension, designers can simulate, communicate, and optimize manual handling tasks by validating them against published standards and guidelines. Plus, the software ensures conformance with health and safety guidelines and ergonomic standards. It includes standard algorithms for analyzing workplace tasks such as lifting and lowering (NIOSH 81/91), pulling and pushing (Snook), energy expenditure (GARG), and posture (RULA), and can arrange for these tasks to be accomplished for differing body types.

Users can analyze designs faster with simplified workflows to posture the manikin and can reuse saved postures and analysis settings, plus they can leverage advanced reporting capabilities of analysis results earlier in the development process in order to deliver products designed and optimized for humans in less time.


This manikin has been been given instructions to lift and carry.

Reach, Vision, & Ergonomics Analysis
In PTC’s online demonstration (link to video below), you can see how reach, vision, and ergonomics analysis are possible using Pro/ENGINEER Manikin.

Once you select an avatar-like figure from a populated library of different types, you then select the posture, and can do some fine-tuning to achieve the desired motion. This is evident in either a driver in an automobile, an assembly worker on the plant floor, or an aviation pilot surrounded by the components in a cockpit.

You can also change the shape of the human from a large male, for example, to a small female. The figure can also interact with the product design, as the motion of the manikin can be made to move “naturally,” according to the online demonstration.

The latter takes on added dimension when the figure is shown lifting and carrying an object. One can direct dedicated tools, appoint them to perform testing in real-world environments, and target audience accommodation.

For Users of Pro/E Wildfire 4.0
PTC’s launch of Pro/ENGINEER Manikin marks the industry’s first ISO standards-based solution, the company says, and provides comprehensive, easy-to-use capabilities to simulate and communicate human-product interactions for a global population. It won’t be long (next month) before the free manikin capabilities for users of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 are available in English, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

So, beginning in December 2008, basic manikin capabilities that enable users to insert a predefined manikin into a CAD model and easily manipulate the posture to gain an understanding of how a human would fit or interact with a proposed design will be included in all Pro/ENGINEER packages at no additional charge for those customers on the latest maintenance release of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0.

Fewer Prototypes
Michael M. Campbell, PTC’s senior vice president of Product Management, Desktop Products, explains “PTC Pro/ENGINEER Manikin is a unique approach to addressing the challenge of human-product interactions because it was designed, developed, and tested specifically for the design engineer.”

“By seamlessly embedding these tools in the Pro/ENGINEER design environment,” he adds, “companies can now better understand whether design alternatives conform with safety, health, and ergonomics guidelines. This means fewer physical prototypes and products that are best optimized for a target audience within the overall global market.”

Campbell says, “Pro/ENGINEER Manikin underscores PTC’s ongoing commitment to delivering superior technology and value to our customers.”


PTC created this video to demonstrate how its Pro/ENGINEER Manikin module can be used to optimize human-product interactions.

Human Factors
Other companies attest to the usefulness of the new approach.

“PTC’s new manikin software is notable for its tight integration with Pro/ENGINEER,” said John MacKrell, senior analyst, CIMdata.

“Pro/ENGINEER Manikin brings digital human visualization and simulation to the engineer’s desktop within the CAD user interface and without the need for the engineer to be a human factors expert,” he adds. “This is a very impressive first step for PTC for supporting a human-centric design approach. Pro/ENGINEER Manikin will enable customers to better optimize their products for the people who will use, manufacture, and maintain them.”

Patrick Hodgins, chief engineer, Callaway Cars, speaks to the deeper insight gained from the behavior of the interaction between human and product: “The new capabilities introduced in Pro/ENGINEER Manikin will dramatically improve our ability to design innovative products for our customers.”

“These same features are also applicable to considerations for improvements in the manufacture, assembly, and service of our products. The vision cones, reach envelopes, and other human factors analysis capabilities provide valuable insight earlier in the product design and development process,” Hodgins adds.

PTC has captured the imagination for what’s possible in the realm of early lifecycle visualization, simulation, and communication. Soon little will be left to chance.

For more information, go to PTC’s webpage on Pro/ENGINEER Manikin products.

Read why DE’s editors chose this as a Pick of the Week.

View the demo video that shows some of the new features being put to use.

Read the specifics on PTC’s Pro/ENGINEER or, for general information, please visit PTC.

Margaret S. Gurney is the editor for new products at Desktop Engineering magazine.

About DE Editors

DE's editors contribute news and new product announcements to Desktop Engineering. Press releases can be sent to them via DE-Editors@deskeng.com.