DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Rapid Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Design Exploration

Navy STTR 22.A - Topic N22A-T017
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N22A-T017 TITLE: DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Rapid Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Design Exploration

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML);General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Biomedical;Human Systems;Materials / Processes

OBJECTIVE: Develop a digital design tool for personal protective equipment (PPE) that allows for rapid exploration of the entire design space.

DESCRIPTION: Developing high-performing, detailed designs of PPE require a thorough examination of conceptual designs and experimental testing. Testing numerous designs is costly and time consuming, both of which contribute to delayed product development and deployment. Moreover, traditional non-biofidelic physical human surrogates limit the translation from testing to the actual response of the warfighter in theater. To facilitate faster and rational design decisions, modeling and simulation utilizing biofidelic human body models can streamline the design process. However, even current state-of-the-art models can still be

time consuming to develop, modify, and analyze. New digital technology that allows for rapid design exploration to couple with state-of-the-art models is needed in order to leverage the advantages of computational modeling. PPE design parameters (e.g., fit, form, weight, material) can be extensively probed on digital human models with accurate injury risk analysis prior to the first physical prototype.

PHASE I: Conceive of and clearly articulate a feasible formulation for a digital design tool for PPE using digital engineering principles used by the DoD. A complete plan for the PPE digital design tool should be developed and the methods of creation for this tool should be fully explained. A methodology for a future approach to validation of the PPE design tool should be presented including how the tool would reduce system design costs, how the tool would allow novel designs to be explored, and how the design tool would specify the characteristics of the PPE under development. Develop a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Build a functional prototype PPE development tool with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the required related environment. Integrate the prototype PPE software tool with a human digital twin that is created in the physics-based solvers, LS-Dyna and FEBio finite element software packages. Create a functional system using both the PPE development tool and the human digital twin with two novel PPE designs that demonstrate the ability to estimate injury risk for any given PPE design as well as the characteristics of the PPE itself (e.g., coverage, dimensions, material). Conduct a cost savings analysis to compare the PPE design tool to more traditional design methods for creating novel PPE items to demonstrate the value of the design tool to reduce acquisition costs.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Build and deploy a functional PPE design tool at a Navy organization, preferably within the Naval aviation realm. Verify and validate the ability of the PPE design tool to produce protective gear that are functional, achievable with currently available materials and material handling processes, and provide the protection and injury risk reduction as predicted by the design tool during in silico design processes.

Develop a plan for the sustainment and improvement of the design software tool over time so that the tool does not become outdated or irrelevant due to advances in injury risk prediction, human body modeling, personal protective equipment fundamentals; development of new protective materials, system optimization methodologies, application of AI/ML, or technological advances in related technologies and supporting data sets such as constitutive properties of biological tissues and materials used in PPE systems. Address how the PPE design software tool can address the requirements for military and dual-use PPE, especially body armor, helmets, sensory system protection (e.g., goggles, wearable noise abatement systems), bomb suits, as well as civilian PPE systems such as hard hats, football helmets, and PPE for manufacturing facilities. Software tool can be formulated to be sustained and improved over time to remain functional. Commercialization must include DoD applications and may include non-DoD applications.


  1. Zimmerman P.; Gilbert, T. and Salvatore, F. "Digital engineering transformation across the Department of Defense." The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology, 16(4), 2017, pp. 325-338.
  2. Olivares, G. and Yadav, V. "Mass transit bus-vehicle compatibility evaluation during frontal and rear collisions." Proc 20th Int Technical Conf Enhanced Safety of Vehicles, 2007. Paper number 07-0477.
  3. Bredbenner, T.L.; Eliason, T.D.; Francis, W.L.; McFarland, J.M.; Merkle, A.C. and Nicolella, D.P. "Development and validation of a statistical shape modeling-based finite element model of the cervical spine under low-level multiple direction loading conditions." Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2: 58, 2014.
  4. Michalski, A.S.; Amin, S.; Cheung, A.M.; Cody, D.D.; Keyak, J.H.; Lang, T.F.; Nicolella, D,P,; Orwoll, E.S.; Boyd, S.K. and Sibonga, J.D. "Hip load capacity cut-points for Astronaut Skeletal Health NASA Finite Element Strength Task Group Recommendations." npj | Microgravity, 2019, 5: 6.
  5. Olivares, Gerardo. "Integrated Occupant Safety for Urban Air Transport Emergency Landing Applications." 8th Biennial Autonomous VTOL Technical Meeting and 6th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium. Mesa, AZ USA. (Note: Full text of article available upon request from author.)
  6. Goertz, A,; Viano, D. and Yang, K.H. "Effects of Personal Protective Equipment on Seated Occupant Spine Loads in Under-Body Blast: a Finite Element Human Body Modeling Analysis." Human Factors and Mechanical Engineering for Defense and Safety, Vol 5, Issue 1, January 6, 2021.

KEYWORDS: digital engineering; personal protective equipment; PPE; body armor design; helmet design; systems engineering; structural analysis; injury risk reduction; human digital twin; risk analysis; verification and validation models; design models; manufacturing


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.A STTR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

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