The use of analysis and simulation for bio-medical purposes is increasing dramatically but is still quite immature. In contrast to other industrial sectors most analysis work is carried out by “specialists” in consultancies, universities or research establishments and industrial “practises” are in there infancy. Nevertheless the potential benefits are substantial.
There are two distinct drivers; firstly an improved understanding of the biomechanics of human body with view to development of artificial implants, e.g. hip replacements, artificial heart valves. Secondly the simulation of body kinematics in crash scenarios in response to the need for safer cars, trains etc.
In the first case the use of CAE techniques gives insight into the load mechanisms, material behaviour and response of the implants and the biomedical materials (bone, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, etc.). They can support the product design and development process in many aspects, such as wear predictions, structural behaviour, component loading etc. In the second area the interest is understanding how the human body interacts in crash situations when subject to very rapid decelerations, with a view to designing safer vehicles.
The main challenge in both areas is how to tackle the highly nonlinear and currently illunderstood biomechanical behaviour of specific materials using the available simulation tools. Much of the “material” behaviour is not easily characterised by conventional models e.g. “solids” usually behave in a complex inelastic manner and fluids are non-Newtonian.
Other technology challenges include a general lack of credible data, ill-understood scale effects and the ability of material to change behaviour in response to environment. It is thus essential to bring together the specialist bio-medical knowledge and the expertise and experience of finite element analysis specialists, in order to adapt the already existing advanced finite element formulations and techniques on the special biomechanical requirements.
An additional group of problems stems from the ever increasing use of micromechanisms and microsystems in medical applications. Typical devices include microfluidic, electrical and sensing components. Problems associated with design and use of these devices requires solution to coupled physics issues such as; flow, heat transfer, chemistry and diffusion or structural analysis, electrostatics, electromagnetics and plasma.
Advanced tools are emerging. However the computing power required is demanding and there is considerable scope for research directed at better models.