Although automotive plants are increasingly becoming populated with robots, humans are still relied upon to perform many tasks for proper vehicle assembly. Assembly-line workers are often tasked to work in cramped spaces; therefore, their movements must be carefully choreographed to maintain their physical safety and comfort.
Volkswagen AG has begun using Dassault Systèmes’ Delmia V5 Human software to ergonomically design its human assembly-line functions. The software’s prototyping capability provides communication between designers, engineers, and operators to maximize the efficiency and speed of human motion in a manufacturing situation.
To limit the potential for physical injury to line workers, possible work stoppages, or vehicle quality issues, Volkswagen analyzes all human movement to ensure ergonomic integrity and prevent situations that could compromise manufacturing efficiency. Through simulation, it can be discovered that it is difficult for an assembly-line worker to reach a bolt and tighten it at the required line speed. Based on this information, the workstation layout and process can be reconfigured prior to its implementation on the plant floor.
“Delmia Human gives me the ability to simulate the work environment on the computer to ensure ergonomic suitability before implementing in real life,” said Maileen Zander, an ergonomics consultant for Volkswagen’s vehicle projects. “Since the system simulates many standard positions, and one can also expand the body posture library, one is spared from having to manually model every new position. Delmia Human is an essential tool for my work. Without the true-to-life simulation, we would be unable to verify our findings in the early planning phase.”
Zander uses Delmia Human to create human CAD models, called manikins, which can then realistically simulate the complex task procedures at each station.
Of the 65 movable human body parts, 49 can be highlighted with individual colors in the software. Certain body parts and areas—such as the spine, chest area, lumbar region, and pelvis—can be blocked or activated in the simulation. Objects can also be added to the manikin, such as a hardhat that automatically moves with every motion. The field of vision also adjusts dynamically to the manikin’s movements.
The manikin also can walk on reference surfaces. Delmia Human contains functions for climbing stairs and ladders, whereby the body automatically moves in sync with the limbs used. The human models can grasp objects within their reach, and the projected effort required for a certain activity when an individual is in a particular body position can be determined.
Last year, Volkswagen announced that it was implementing Delmia Process Engineer (DPE) software throughout its organization. DPE has since been used in all production sites for strategic assembly planning for the Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, and Seat brands, resulting in improved planning reliability, shorter planning times, and a reduction in development costs, according to VW.