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Simpleware Human Head Model Promises Simulation Breakthroughs

Exeter SETsquared member Simpleware and the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have worked together to produce a new, state-of-the art 3D human head model suitable for different types of computational simulation. Based on high-quality magnetic resonance imaging scans, the 3D head model was developed using advanced image segmentation techniques that accurately reproduce the complex internal and external structures of the head.

The model offers a breakthrough in terms of end-user flexibility, as it represents pre-segmented image data that can be easily converted using proprietary techniques into different computational meshes for simulation. Previous models based on CAD or image data were limited by being designed for specific applications, making it difficult to adjust models to suit new requirements.

By operating mainly in image space, the NRL-Simpleware model offer a robust option for engineers that want to export meshes for simulating impact, electromagnetic forces, fluid flow and other physics. In addition, the model enables new parts to be added, from extra details in the brain to CAD models of headgear. Research towards the head model was also carried out at the University of Exeter.

The US Naval Research Laboratory has validated the accuracy of the model against experimental data when simulating blunt impact to the head. Being able to rapidly and accurately run simulations and adapt meshes allows NRL researchers to better understand head impact amongst soldiers, with data also able to inform the design of helmets.

As well as military applications, the NRL-Simpleware head model is being used as part of research into head impact and concussion in American football. Simpleware are working with Ansys, Inc. to create specific versions of the head model for exploring shock waves in the brain, and how this relates to helmet design. These models have the potential to influence future research into reducing the significant risks associated with head injuries in American football and sports. Other potential applications include studying the effects of electromagnetism in MRI machines on the brain and head impact in automotive testing.

Simpleware managing director Dr Philippe Young commented: “the models we’ve developed using our software are designed to handle the most complicated structures of the brain, head and neck. The work we’ve already done with partners like the US Naval Research Laboratory and Ansys shows how important this technology is to learning more about head impact, whether in the military or the NFL.”

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