Three-dimensional manikins are also known as Digital Human Models (DHM). These are software representations of humans that enable designers to visualize the effectiveness of a design before a physical prototype is constructed. DHM programs such as Jack, Ramsis, and Safework are derived from the same types of technology as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs and actually allow users to import their 3D CAD models into a virtual environment. Then, DHMs of various sizes can be placed into this environment along with the model for design analysis.
The DHM programs can then be used to assess many design concerns. For example, automotive companies can utilize DHM to examine if the current seat adjustability will allow a wide range of users to reach all of the needed controls. DHM not only benefits the end user, it is also incredibly useful for examining manufacturability or maintenance situations where individuals will need to be able to reach components for either assembly or repair. Furthermore, DHM can be used to optimize workplace or workstation design to reduce health or safety concerns. Being able to do all of this on a computer rather than using a physical prototype results in faster, higher quality, and more accessible designs that also lower cost.
While DHM can be useful as a validation tool (e.g., for performing clearance checks), it is not an “end-all” solution. One of its major downfalls is that DHM does not include any of the preference considerations that are a main focus of DfHV. The impressive visuals rendered by DHM software can enhance the communication of design objectives, but they may also serve to obfuscate the limitations of DHM’s univariate assumptions (i.e., manikins are created via anthropometric scaling). Nonetheless, they are an incredibly useful tool and, if used wisely, can be beneficial to the design process.