"If you put lots of high-tech stuff on a soldier's helmet and the additional mass makes the helmet slide over the soldier's eyes when he dives into a fox hole, that's a problem," says Robert Playter, vice president of engineering at Boston Dynamics. "That's the kind of problem you want to uncover before the helmet makes its way to the battlefield." Boston Dynamics is developing software tools for virtual prototyping of next-generation soldier equipment that are part of Objective Force Warrior, the U.S. Army's new science and technology initiative to develop future soldier fighting systems. The company is using its Digital Biomechanics , which relies on robotic control and physics-based models, for providing human-simulation software that obeys the same laws of locomotion, balance, and loading as a person would in the physical world. Analysts at the Army's Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA use Digital Biomechanics to assess the impact of prototype designs on soldier performance before building physical mock-ups and testing with soldiers. Virtual prototyping reduces the design cycle. "Instead a design cycle of a year or more, the goal is to get things done in months or weeks," says Playter. Prototyping tools the company will deliver to the Army in upcoming months include physics-based simulation of soldiers performing war-fighting tasks. "We proved the concept, now we are developing the product." For more information, go to www.bdi.com.
The FDA has just released draft guidelines for using 3D printing in the design, development, and manufacture of regulated medical products. Although the recommendations are non-binding, they do set some much-needed parameters.
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