Dr Toh Yen Pan uses computer technology to solve biomechanical problems such as injury prevention and sports equipment performance. His expertise is inspiring the next generation of engineers.
He is the program manager for the Master of Engineering (Computer Aided Engineering and Design), and teaches computer aided design and finite element analysis across a range of degree and postgraduate programs.
His research focuses on sports equipment design and testing, computer aided engineering, mechanical systems design, and virtual engineering design and design optimisation.
What do you do at RMIT?
I use new 3D design and engineering tools for my own research and for my teaching in mechanical, automotive, biomedical, sustainable systems, advanced manufacturing and mechatronics, and aerospace engineering programs.
I also work with students and academic staff on individual research projects such as user-centred design of sports helmets, shoes, implant and medical management devices, and engineering education.
What is computer aided design and engineering?
Computer aided design and engineering (CAD/CAE) uses cutting-edge design and analysis software to evaluate and predict the mechanical and safety performance of a wide range of products.
The activities that use CAD/CAE involve product design and development, finite element analysis (FEA), data management and transfer, optimisation and validation, and last but not least manufacturing.
How do CAD/CAE skills relate to the needs of industry?
There is wide demand for a new generation of engineers who are digitally trained and skilled in engineering design and digital manufacturing technologies.
The application of cutting-edge technology encourages our engineering graduates to interact with different disciplines and to look outside their immediate domains to find the best design approaches and solutions.
Graduates from the Master of Engineering (Computer Aided Engineering and Design) work in a range of industries including mechanical engineering, industrial design, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, product design and manufacturing.
What is your current research focus?
My currently research focuses on the design and customisation of sports equipment for selected user groups.
In particular, our research group developed a new approach to custom design and improve bicycle helmet fit using 3D anthropometry data, reverse engineering techniques and computer simulation analysis.
Australia has experienced an increasing number of people who ride bikes for recreation, as a mode of transport, and to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Our team’s research on design customisation of sports helmets increases the proportion of head protection and enhances the fit for the wearer, which improves safety during a crash.
What initially drew you to this area?
My interest in this field started during my studies for a Masters degree in Road Safety Engineering, where I conducted field investigations and technical analyses concerning the causes of physical injuries resulting from incidents involving motor vehicles, particularly motorcycles.
After my doctoral studies, I had an opportunity to work in the industry to develop virtual airbag designs within a CAD environment for drivers and passengers, as well as Inflatable Curtain airbags.
That virtual design was tested through a FEA approach, with the choice of an appropriate inflator, to reduce vehicle occupants’ injuries and to meet the customers’ requirements. Then, the final CAD-design was used to produce a prototype.
I went on to do postdoctoral research in Sydney on the safety performance of bicycle and motorcycle helmets, during which I conducted field studies on helmet fit and built a new oblique test rig for helmet testing.
In my current research I combine CAD design, FEA and safety performance for sports equipment.
What are the emerging trends in this area?
The biggest trend is toward concurrent design and collaboration in real time on common projects, but using a virtual environment.
This allows big companies to encourage teams from a range of different backgrounds and cultures to work collaboratively, even when they are not physically co-located, by using the same software to improve their engineering and business operations.
Where do you see your research heading in 10 years?
I hope to expand my research on innovation in assistive technologies and custom designs of medical implant products.
What do you enjoy about teaching in RMIT’s engineering programs?
I have always been keen to transfer my research knowledge and experience in CAD, FEA and engineering design to my teaching.
I really enjoy seeing students develop and advance their skills in solving real-world design problems within virtual environments.
I’m very proud of my students, especially when their research gains recognition from their peers and research committees through winning events such as ‘best student paper’ awards at international conferences.
Find out more about the Master of Engineering (Computer Aided Engineering and Design).
Story: Lawrence Martin