Editorial Feature

Why Is Pressure Mapping Essential for Product Design?

Discover how pressure mapping sensors revolutionize product design by providing real-time pressure data and insights into user interaction—continue reading to explore their applications, advantages, and integration into the design process.

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Many corporations launch upgraded versions of their products each year with significant improvements, updates and integration of novel features, which help them continue the evolution process of their products.

While designing any product, companies focus on important factors like safety, comfort, quality, user-friendliness, etc., so that their product stands out in a competitive market. However, it is difficult to compare some of these important factors of the products if there is no objective way or data to compare. This objectivity is provided by the pressure mapping sensors that offer real-time pressure data across the entire contact area of the product.

For instance, pressure mapping sensors are used in the athletes' shoes to measure the amount of pressure exerted on surfaces that are in contact with the ground and feet, which helps the designers develop customized shoes with optimum design.1

What are Pressure Mapping Sensors?

Pressure mapping sensors are thin, flexible mats equipped with thousands of miniature pressure sensors arranged in a grid pattern. When placed between two interacting surfaces, they capture real-time pressure data across the entire contact area, which is then visualized as color-coded maps, highlighting different pressure points, offering a comprehensive picture of pressure distribution, and invaluable insights into product performance and user interaction.3

Importance of Pressure Mapping Sensors in Product Ergonomics

Traditionally, evaluating ergonomics relied on subjective feedback and anthropometric data, which often lacked precision and individual nuance. On the other hand, pressure mapping sensors provide objective, quantifiable data on pressure distribution across various body parts interacting with the product, allowing early detection of areas with concentrated pressure, which helps pinpoint potential discomfort pressure points before finalizing the design.

For instance, the thin sensing mat of Tekscans' Body Pressure Measurement System (BPMS) helps measure the pressure distribution of a human body on support surfaces like backrests, cushions, mattresses and seats with minimal interference of the support surface, allowing for multiple benefits including quality control, verifying comfort, design optimization, and competitive benchmarking. Similarly, pressure mapping can personalize product design to individual body shapes and movement patterns.2

Advantages of Using Pressure Mapping Sensors for Product Development

There are many advantages associated with using pressure mapping sensors for product design. Pressure mapping sensors enable designers to create products that align with the natural movements and pressure points of the human body, resulting in an enhanced user experience.

Moreover, pressure mapping allows for a high degree of customization based on individual pressure preferences. In healthcare, sports equipment, and industrial design, pressure mapping aids in preventing injuries by identifying areas of potential strain or discomfort. For instance, in a recent study, researchers examined the efficacy of FSA pressure mapping sensors in assessing lumbar belt interfaces, crucial for managing low back pain. These sensors, developed by Vista Medical, offer thin, flexible, and accurate pressure mapping capabilities, vital for medical applications.4

The study involved comprehensive metrology tests encompassing linearity, hysteresis, repeatability, reproducibility, drift, and suitability on curved surfaces. Results indicated satisfactory performance, particularly in linearity and accuracy, but consistent calibration and avoiding sensor overlap were recommended for optimal functionality. This research underscores the ongoing advancements in pressure mapping technology for medical applications, emphasizing the importance of sensor precision and adaptability.4

Pressure mapping sensors also allow the manufacturers of any product to improve overall quality by offering quantifiable data early in the design process, allowing for iteration and improvement based on real-world interaction data, potentially reducing costly physical prototypes as well.

Specific Examples of Pressure Mapping Sensors

Pressure mapping sensors come in various sizes, resolutions, and pressure ranges to cater to different applications in various fields. For instance, Tekscan offers a wide range of sensor mats tailored for various industries, including footwear, automotive, healthcare, and research. Fujifilm Prescale™ Film, Grip™ System, TireScan™, I-Scan™, NPAT™, etc., are the pressure mapping sensors offered by Tekscan, each sensor having its unique advantages in specific use cases.

For example, the I-Scan™ pressure mapping sensor enhances gasket research and design by measuring dynamic pressure distribution in engine components, providing crucial data for decision-making on block structure, torque, and lubricants. The system aids in validating assembly techniques, characterizing seal pressure changes, and optimizing gasket design for improved efficiency and reliability.5

Similarly, pressure mapping sensors, like Tekscan's TireScan™ solutions, play a pivotal role in tire analysis. These sensors provide crucial insights for optimizing tire designs by capturing real-time pressure patterns, which help engineers enhance handling, minimize NVH, improve fuel economy, and ensure longevity. Tekscan's software facilitates in-depth analysis and customizable reporting, enabling a comprehensive understanding of tire performance under various conditions.6

Integration of Pressure Mapping Data into the Product Design Process

Integrating pressure mapping data into the product design process is crucial to achieving optimal results. Designers can utilize this data in various stages, from the initial concept phase to the refinement of the final prototype. Pressure mapping can guide the conceptualization of product design by influencing the overall shape and structure, ensuring a more intuitive and comfortable design.

Similarly, during the prototyping phase, pressure mapping sensors provide real-time feedback on how users interact with the product, allowing designers to make incremental adjustments and refine the product until it achieves an optimal design; even after a product is launched, pressure mapping sensors can continue to monitor and improve product performance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, pressure mapping sensors are useful tools in modern product design, offering objective insights into pressure distribution and surface interaction. Their applications and advantages in several industries, including automobile, sports, and medical industries, show their capabilities to enhance product design. Integrating pressure mapping data throughout the design process ensures continual improvement, resulting in products that align with user needs and preferences.

Pressure Sensor Care and Maintenance

References and Further Reading

  1. An In-Depth Buyer's Guide to Pressure Mapping in Sport. Simple Faster. Retrieved on February 20, 2024 from https://simplifaster.com/articles/depth-buyers-guide-pressure-mapping-sport/
  2. Pressure Mapping Technology, Pressure Mapping, Force Measurement & Tactile Sensors. Tekscan. Retrieved on February 20, 2024 from https://www.tekscan.com/products-solutions/pressure-mapping-technology
  3. Tekscan, Inc.. (2023) Improving Battery and EV Design with Pressure Mapping. AZoSensors. Retrieved on February 20, 2024 from https://www.azosensors.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=2857
  4. Bonnaire, R., et al. (2014) Evaluation Of Pressure Mapping System For Testing Medical Devices. In 16th International Conference on Experimental Mechanics. Available at: https://hal.science/hal-01411275/
  5. Gasket Research and Design, Pressure Mapping, Force Measurement & Tactile Sensors. Tekscan. Retrieved on February 20, 2024 from https://www.tekscan.com/applications/gasket-research-and-design
  6. Tire Analysis, Pressure Mapping, Force Measurement & Tactile Sensors. Tekscan. Retrieved on February 20, 2024 from https://www.tekscan.com/products-solutions/tire-analysis

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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