"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.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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