Scholarly article on topic 'Virtual Ergonomic Assessment of First Saudi Arabian Designed Car in a Semi-Immersive Environment'

Virtual Ergonomic Assessment of First Saudi Arabian Designed Car in a Semi-Immersive Environment Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Mustufa H. Abidi, A.M. El-Tamimi, A.M. Al-Ahmari, S.M. Darwish, M.S. Rasheed

Abstract During the last decade human factors is drawing more attention in the design, engineering, production, and maintenance of new industrial products especially in automotive industry. Ergonomic quality is becoming a critical criterion for the success of many products. Recently, virtual reality (VR) technique is widely applied during different phases of product development. The use of VR allows designer reducing the production of physical prototypes that are very expensive and requires long production time. Virtual humans are used in the automotive industry especially for ergonomic analysis of a virtual prototype of a car. In this research work, an ergonomic assessment for first Saudi Arabian Car known has been performed. CATIA V5 human builder module was used to develop the virtual humans of American male 50 and 95 percentile, which were utilized to carry out the ergonomic analysis of driver's seat. The main goal of the research is to develop a virtual environment (VE) that allow designers and engineer to evaluate the car interiors and driver's seat position using the digital mock-up instead of building the physical prototype, having a virtual validation of the project, in its early development phases. A successful ergonomics assessment has been performed on the digital model of the car in a semi-immersive virtual environment and recommendations were made for the driver's seat position based on the assessment.

Academic research paper on topic "Virtual Ergonomic Assessment of First Saudi Arabian Designed Car in a Semi-Immersive Environment"

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Procedía Engineering

ELSEVIER

Procedía Engineering 64 (2013) 622 - 631

www.elsevier.com/locate/proeedia

International Conference On DESIGN AND MANUFACTURING, IConDM 2013

Virtual Ergonomic Assessment of First Saudi Arabian Designed Car in a Semi-Immersive Environment

Mustufa H. Abidia *, A.M. El-Tamimia, A.M. Al-Ahmaria, S.M. Darwisha, M.S.

Rasheeda

During the last decade human factors is drawing more attention in the design, engineering, production, and maintenance of new industrial products especially in automotive industry. Ergonomic quality is becoming a critical criterion for the success of many products. Recently, virtual reality (VR) technique is widely applied during different phases of product development. The use of VR allows designer reducing the production of physical prototypes that are very expensive and requires long production time. Virtual humans are used in the automotive industry especially for ergonomic analysis of a virtual prototype of a car. In this research work, an ergonomic assessment for first Saudi Arabian Car known has been performed. CATIA V5 human builder module was used to develop the virtual humans of American male 50 and 95 percentile, which were utilized to carry out the ergonomic analysis of driver's seat. The main goal of the research is to develop a virtual environment (VE) that allow designers and engineer to evaluate the car interiors and driver's seat position using the digital mock-up instead of building the physical prototype, having a virtual validation of the project, in its early development phases. A successful ergonomics assessment has been performed on the digital model of the car in a semi-immersive virtual environment and recommendations were made for the diver's seat position based on the assessment.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the organizing and review committee of IConDM 2013 "Keywords: Virtual Reality (VR), Ergonomics; Virtual human; Virtual Environment (VE)."

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +966-545269756; fax: +966-1-4670969. E-mail address: mustufahaider@yahoo.com; mabidi@ksu.edu. sa

1877-7058 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the organizing and review committee of IConDM 2013 doi: 10.1016/j .proeng .2013.09.137

aAdvance Manufacturing Institute, King Saud University, Riyadh-11421, Saudi Arabia

Abstract

1. Introduction

During the last few years interest has developed in applying ergonomics to the development of complex products in general and particularly in automotive industry. This interest comes together from increased customer requirements and from technological development of new car systems and components such as latest audio systems, video screens, integrated GPS unit, etc. [1]. Nowadays, all manufacturers and suppliers already recognize ergonomics as an important aspect of vehicle design. Therefore, much attention has been paid to make sure that driver and passengers can reach all of the controls, see and understand dashboard displays, feel comfortable in seats, and like aesthetics of the car. In automotive industry, key requirement is to assure the comfort of the driver and passengers taking into account the problems related with reach ability, visibility, accessibility, and posture.

During the late 60's, hundreds of human beings were 'measured' to develop huge data bases storing the typical shape and size of various human bodies. From these data bases, physical man models and body templates were derived, which are used to roughly size the passenger room of a car [2]. With the help of these techniques, the reachability of pedals, steering wheel, and general seating position can be evaluated but more complex problems, such as the reachability of certain controls are difficult to solve (as shown in Fig.1).

The rapidly emerging technology of virtual ergonomics facilitates designers and engineers to overcome these issues by enabling the simulation of human interaction with a product or system from the initial stages of the design process. Automotive industry has sturdily reduced the time to market of their products in order to fulfill the global market demand. In recent years, automotive designers are making an ever-increasing use of Virtual Reality (VR) techniques in order to validate their design during various phases of product development. Virtual ergonomic solutions bridge the gap between functional design and design for human comfort, productivity and safety. By means of simulation in a virtual environment (VE), it is feasible to verify the performance of a human in context of a vehicle before it actually exists. Thus, it is possible to comprehend products centered on humans, suitable for various sizes and shapes, and to assess design based on ergonomic factors before building physical prototypes. The simulation will permit improvements in car design relating to positioning, comfort, visibility, and access to controls from users of different sizes [3].

With the development of VR technology, simulators for vehicle's driver seat were developed for ergonomics analysis. These simulators are basically rough physical prototypes of car interior which contains necessary parts such as, driver seat, dashboard, gear shift, and steering wheel. A user wearing a head mounted-display (HMD) can sit inside it and assess the virtual interior displayed in 3D by the HMD. Head and hands are tracked via magnetic trackers which allowed a user to determine their position in digital world i.e. interior of a car [4]. The problems associated with this approach are; 1) one needs to build a simulator, 2) the dimensions of simulators are fixed and cannot be changed easily, thus it is less flexible, and 3) a large number of subjects are required to test with different sizes of humans. Thus the development of virtual humans or manikins overcomes all these problems, which can be customized to different scenario during runtime. Virtual humans have build-in knowledge about human kinematic behavior and they can be sized to n-percentile man or woman. Today's advanced software

Fig. 1. Product designers working with human body template (source OPEL).

programs with user-friendly interfaces make it easy to perform complicated human factors studies with simple mouse clicks. For example, simple pull-down menus can be used to create standard 5th, 50th, and 95th percentile male and female manikins. Thus, users then have access to sophisticated manikin structures offering 100 independent links and 148 degrees of freedom with limits of joint mobility, permitting precise simulation of actual human capabilities in a wide range of situations. There are many virtual human manikins available these days such as, Ramsis, Jack-Jill, Santos, Human-Builder, etc.

Back pain is universal amongst drivers and there are numerous factors for this: driving forces prolonged sitting in a fixed posture; transmission of vibration; and failure of spine support due to a poorly fitting seat. Therefore, it is important to design the driver's seat ergonomically. The backrest of the driving seat commonly has an angular adjustment. But steeply reclined sitting positions may not compatible with the visual demands of driving or with comfortable position with respect to the steering wheel. So in practice the backrest is unlikely to be set at an angle of more than about 10° from the vertical; and when driving becomes difficult or stressful, driver tend to raise his head forward and hunch over the steering wheel, thus losing the backrest support [5]. Therefore, it is very important to take care of human factors during the design phase of the vehicle, so that the resulting product will be comfortable, safe and appealing to the user. There are mainly five aspects of ergonomics that need to be taken care of. These factors are shown in Fig. 2.

Eiwofl'M

Comfort

Aspects of Ergonomics

A Mitotan ^f P"«»«""

Efficient

Fig. 2. Various aspects of Ergonomics

The major aspects of ergonomics which are considered in this research work are as follows; comfort, aesthetics, and ease of use. A virtual environment was developed to assess the ergonomics of first Saudi Arabian designed car known as Gazal-1. Human Builder module of CATIA V5 R22 was used to develop the virtual humans to perform the reachability analysis of driver, to measure the critical clearance distances, and also the aesthetics of car interior was analyzed in a semi-immersive virtual environment.

2. Related Work

Virtual ergonomic analysis is a research area which is not explored fully yet. There is lot of research work going on across the globe in this field. Whitman et al. [6], presented a detailed survey about the use of virtual reality for ergonomics analysis. The ergonomic assessment of driver's seat is an important analysis carried out in different ways and contexts. In aviation, the ergonomic analysis for cockpit design of civil aircrafts is very critical, because

uncomfortable posture caused by illogical design bring pilot discomfort and fatigue, which could defy aviation security and be injurious for pilots. A distinctive approach is the use of Digital Human that can reduce the time and cost for cockpit development, as explained in [7, 8]. Virtual humans provide a competent solution for preliminary ergonomic analysis. However, the reliability of the results are not as good as those obtained in a real context, since sometimes it is not simple to extend the data, collected with virtual humans software, to the real conditions [9].

In automotive field, the physical driving simulators used for ergonomics analysis are generally known as seat bucks. Sung et al. [10], described the driving simulator as a VR tool that gives to a driver-on-board the impression that he is driving an actual vehicle by predicting vehicle motion caused by driver input and feeding back corresponding visual, motion, audio, and proprioceptive cues to the driver. The driving simulators normally consist of numerous subsystems that allow designers to mimic actual driving conditions in order to assess driver-vehicle interaction. These systems are very complicated and are mainly used for driver's safety analysis, and for training and vehicle tuning. These seating bucks are mainly developed by using fully immersive VR environments that reduce the perceived realism of the scene: in fact, several users, especially when using a HMD, complain about an unnatural perception of space, and it can also cause cyber-sickness to some users. Moehring et al. [11], presented an assessment process for detecting possible causes of misperception focused on automotive industry scenarios by trying to alleviate perception errors by means of a depth of field blur applied to the virtual images. The misperc^tion affects also the user's interaction that is vital for the ergonomic analysis.

Thou^, most of these systems offer only the possibility to set the arrangement of the driver's seat, pedals, and steering wheel while it does not pay much attention to simulate the dashboard with its knobs, buttons, display, and other control systems. Moreover, it would be very useful to provide the possibility of configuring in real time the dashboard in order to compare different layout solutions by performing several ergonomic tests. Semi-immersive virtual environment provides an efficient solution to these issues. As the user is not fully immersed in VE, therefore, he/she can feel less stressed and there is a minor chance of cyber-sickness. Also, the graphics quality is much better in these systems as compared to fully-immersive VR system, due to technological advancements in this field.

Rix and stork [12], explained the importance of virtual human's use in ergonomics. A detailed reachability and

visibility analysis was performed bases on a joint project with BMW Company. Deisinger et al. [13], presented a VR based tool for ergonomics analysis known as ERGONAUT, used for analyzing the console system of a tractor cabin. Chateauroux and Wang [14], presented a detailed description of car egress motion by younger and older participants. The objective of these analyses was to gather knowledge about egress motion using virtual humans. Motions were reconstructed through inverse kinematics using the RPx Software and the RAMSIS model.

Based on the literature, it can be concluded that it would have been useful to develop a virtual environment for analyzing the developed car ergonomically. The developed virtual system allows a user to assess the car design and its interior quite effectively.

3. Development of Virtual Environment for Ergonomic Analysis

A VE was built to study the interiors of a new car, to analyze the driver's seat, and to provide an environment

which seems to designers and engineers as real one and they consider themselves inside the real car. The Gazal-1 is the first Saudi Arabian designed passenger car, developed by professors, students, engineers, and technicians at King Saud University. It is a sport utility vehicle (SUV). Based on a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon platform, the Gazal-1 is 4.8 m long and about 1.9 m wide and named after a desert deer. Therefore, after building the CAD model of the car, its ergonomics analysis had to be done to make it more comfortable, safe, and appealing to the customers. Thus, it was decided to develop a semi-immersive virtual environment to assess the car ergonomically. This resulted into a lot of time saving as well as cost effective solution in comparison to the development of physical prototype. It also gives more flexibility to the designers for different testing, to analyze the design with various aesthetics features, and then modify their design accordingly. Based on user's feedback analysis it was found that the virtual prototype of Gazal-1 is a very close representative of the real car [15]. Therefore, based on this study one can conclude that the results obtained for ergonomic analysis will be accurate. The flow process of developing a VE for ergonomics analysis is shown in Fig. 3.

Build die CAD model of Cat m CATIA

Build the human manikin in Human Builder module of CATIA

Export the complete model to Pro-e via IGES file format.

Import die model m Pro-e and convert to PTC Division Mockup format using Product View adapters

Add the life-like features and properties to the complete model

Integrate the various hardware VR hardw are system and analyze the virtual model in semi-immerstve environment

Analyze aesthetically, as well as economically

No ^^ 1j the model

Finalize the model

____* --

Fig. 3. Process flow diagram for the development of semi-immersive VE for ergonomics analysis

As shown in Fig. 3, process starts with building up the CAD models of the car in CATIA, and then the virtual humans are built in Human Builder module of CATIA V5. The complete assembled models were transferred to Pro-e via IGES or STEP file. The model was imported to Pro-e because it is compatible with Product view adapters which convert the CAD model to the PTC Division Mockup Software format. In Division Mockup, lifelike properties are added and then the complete model was exported to semi-immersive VR system for final analyzing.

3.1. Hardware Used

The experimental setup consists of Dell precision computer used to generate graphics and integrates various hardware systems. A Christie Mirage projector is used for rear side projection on a 3.1 x 2.33 m screen to create a semi-immersive virtual environment. Active stereo shutter glasses were used by the participants for stereoscopic viewing. Head and hand tracking was done using an Intersense IS-900 Motion tracking system. Participant navigated and interacted with the virtual model through a hand wand. Fig. 4 shows the major VR hardware used.

Fig. 4. (a) Screen; (b) Rear Projector; (c) Hand wand; (d) VR Hardware Controller; (e) Shutter glasses with head tracker; (f) AMX Controller

3.2. System Architecture

The system is made up of four major modules (shown in Fig. 5):

• CAD System: It consists of modeling tools such as CATIA and Pro-e for building up the CAD models of car and virtual humans.

• Translation System: It consists of tools such as Product View adapters which converts the CAD data into VR compatible format.

• Input System: The input system handles the signals from various devices such as head and hand tracker, 3D mouse, keyboard, etc.

• Output System: It deals with the 3D visualization mainly with the help of active stereo shutter glasses. Visualization component renders the 3D scenery taking the current field-of-view with the help of head tracker. Moreover, it contains 3D surround sound system for audio feedback.

Fig. 5. System Architecture of Virtual Ergonomics Analysis System

3.3. Ergonomics Analysis in Semi-immersive Virtual Environment

In this study, CATIA V5 R22 Human Builder module is used to build two digital human, one is 50 percentile and other is 95 percentile American male. The standard anthropometry data for 50 percentile and 95 percentile humans are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Standard Anthropometry Data of 50 Percentile and 95 Percentile American Male

50th Percentile 95th Percentile

Sitting Position in. (cm) in. (cm)

Elbow Rest Height 9.4 (23.9) 11.2 (28.4)

Shoulder Height 23.8 (60.5) 25.9 (65.8)

Eye Height 31.7 (80.5) 38.0 (96.5)

Sitting Height 36.0 (91.4) 38.3 (97.3)

Thigh Clearance 6.0 (15.2) 7.0 (17.8)

Buttock-Knee Length 23.5 (59.7) 25.4 (64.5)

Knee Height 21.5 (54.6) 23.3 (59.2)

Stool Height 16.3 (41.4) 18.1 (46.0)

Standing

Stature 68.9 (175.0) 73.3 (186.2)

Shoulder Height 56.2 (142.7) 60.2 (152.9)

Eye Height 64.5 (163.8) 68.9 (175.0)

Elbow Height 42.5 (108.0) 46.1 (117.1)

Fingertip Height 26.0 (66.0) 28.3 (71.9)

The dimensions, which determine the interior space and access of a vehicle, are taken from the document Society of Automotive Engineers SAE J1100 [16]. Fig. 6 shows the important dimensions of 50 percentile and 95 percentile males while in sitting posture.

(a) <bi

Fig. 6. (a) Important Dimensions of 50th Percentile Human and; (b) 95th Percentile Human

Mainly ergonomics analysis of car interior is based on these factors; 1) Seating position, variability and quality of seats, 2) Position and adjustability of the steering wheel, 3) Reachability and readability of gear shift, knobs and switches, 4) Position and reachability of pedals, 5) Leg room, knee/steering-wheel interference, 6) Head room, etc.

These days' automotive manufacturers have to take drivers from 5 up to 6.5 foot into account, i.e. seats must be moveable for almost one foot. While steering wheel can be accustomed axially, dashboard can't move along with it. Thus, optimizing an interior design is to find the best alternative for variety of possible drivers plus maintaining corporate identity in interior design. Since, not all combinations can be evaluated with real test persons and physical mockups, virtual humans provide more and more flexibility. In the virtual environment the human models

are analyzed for various clearance distances such as distance between driver's head and roof, distance between driver's knees etc. Fig. 7 shows the driver's view of both 50th and 95th percentile humans in virtual environment.

(•) tf>) Fig. 7. Driver's View of (a) 50th Percentile and; (b) 95th Percentile human.

Fig. 8 shows the distance between the driver's seat and the rear seat for 50th and 95th percentile human.

(•) <b) Fig. 8. Distance between Driver's seat and Rear seat for (a) 50th Percentile and; (b) 95th Percentile human.

Based on ergonomics analysis from the virtual environment following distances are measured (Table 2). Table 2. Critical Distances for 50 and 95 Percentile Human as a Gazal-1 Diver

50th Percentile 95th Percentile

Distance Description mm mm

Between Drivers Head and Roof 120 95

Between Drivers Legs and Steering Wheel 58 36

Between Drivers Knees and Steering Block 95 78

Between Drivers Seat and Rear Seat 475 345

Fig. 9 shows a user evaluating the ergonomics of Gazal-1 in semi-immersive virtual environment.

Fig. 9. A user evaluating Gazal-1 in semi-immersive virtual environment

3.4. Reachability Analysis

A reach envelope is defined as that space in which you can touch, grasp, or move objects with your hand. Reach envelope is important for driver so that his hand can reach all the controls system on dashboard, gear shifts, seat belt, etc. easily. Fig. 10 shows the reach envelope of both hands of driver of Gazal-1 for 50th percentile human.

(a) (b)

Fig. 10. Reach Envelope of driver of Gazal-1 for (a) Left hand and; (b) right hand 3.5. Car Interior Analysis

Different leather schemes for car seats were analyzed in a semi-immersive environment. (Fig. 11)

(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 11. Gazal-1 interior with (a) White seats leather; (b) Dark brown seat leather and; (c) Light brown seat leather

4. Results and Discussions

Ergonomics has become a main subject in vehicle design. Therefore it is important to build powerful tools in order to examine all the ergonomic aspects of a new vehicle, starting from the early stage of its conceptual definition. The ergonomics analysis of first Saudi Arabian designed car, Gazal-1 has been successfully performed in a semi-immersive virtual environment. The immersion in the virtual environment gives a user a feeling that he/she is looking at the real car. Based on ergonomics assessment of Gazal-1, it was found that the car offers more comfort to the 50th percentile human, as the critical clearance distances are well within the safe limits as directed by SAE. Even from the safety point of view Gazal-1 is safer for 50th percentile human, because the distance between driver and rear seat is more in this case. Based on reachability analysis, it can be said that all the controls, gear shifts, seat belt, etc. are within the reach of the driver's hand comfortably. The virtual system is efficient in conducting the ergonomic analysis and the proposed improvements for the 95th percentile human were successfully

implemented by the design team of Gazal-1. The VR based offers flexibility to the designer to test the different aesthetics for the interior as well as exterior of the car. The developed system provides a cost effective and time efficient solution for the ergonomic analysis in comparison to the physical prototype approach.

VR based system have a clear advantage over the traditional CAD system for performing the ergonomics analysis. The main benefit is that the real time immersive and interactive environment can be experienced in full scale. Any problems with ergonomic analysis are described quickly and the designer has an advantage to work with a realistic 1:1 scale representation of virtual model. With the help of virtual human in different virtual designs, a much broader set of alternative designs can be investigated in early stages of the design. Instead of subjective statements from limited test persons, one has access to the whole database underlying the virtual human. The integration of the human model into a VE allows designers to have a global view of man-vehicle interaction.

Future work may include, the use of more sophisticated hardware, such as full human body tracking and rendering in the virtual environment for complex ergonomics assessment. The force-feedback system can be integrated to give a user more realistic feeling. Another subject for further research work is the introduction of motion for the car and performs the dynamic ergonomic analysis.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude to Advance Manufacturing Institute, King Saud University for providing the financial help and facilities to complete this research work.

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