Simbody: Multibody dynamics for biomedical research

Michael A. Sherman, Ajay Seth, Scott L. Delp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Citations (Scopus)


Multibody software designed for mechanical engineering has been successfully employed in biomedical research for many years. For real time operation some biomedical researchers have also adapted game physics engines. However, these tools were built for other purposes and do not fully address the needs of biomedical researchers using them to analyze the dynamics of biological structures and make clinically meaningful recommendations. We are addressing this problem through the development of an open source, extensible, high performance toolkit including a multibody mechanics library aimed at the needs of biomedical researchers. The resulting code, Simbody, supports research in a variety of fields including neuromuscular, prosthetic, and biomolecular simulation, and related research such as biologically-inspired design and control of humanoid robots and avatars. Simbody is the dynamics engine behind OpenSim, a widely used biomechanics simulation application. This article reviews issues that arise uniquely in biomedical research, and reports on the architecture, theory, and computational methods Simbody uses to address them. By addressing these needs explicitly Simbody provides a better match to the needs of researchers than can be obtained by adaptation of mechanical engineering or gaming codes. Simbody is a community resource, free for any purpose. We encourage wide adoption and invite contributions to the code base at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-261
Number of pages21
JournalProcedia IUTAM
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological joints
  • Biomedical simulation
  • Biomolecular simulation
  • Compliant contact
  • Coupled motion
  • Minimal coordinates
  • Neuromuscular simulation
  • Open source
  • Real time simulation


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