A string of repulsively interacting particles exhibits a phase transition to a zigzag structure, by reducing the transverse trap potential or the interparticle distance. Based on the emergent symmetry it has been argued that this instability is a quantum phase transition, which can be mapped to an Ising model in transverse field. An extensive Density Matrix Renormalization Group analysis is performed, resulting in an high-precision evaluation of the critical exponents and of the central charge of the system, confirming that the quantum linear-zigzag transition belongs to the critical Ising model universality class. Quantum corrections to the classical phase diagram are computed, and the range of experimental parameters where quantum effects play a role is provided. These results show that structural instabilities of one-dimensional interacting atomic arrays can simulate quantum critical phenomena typical of ferromagnetic systems.