BODY SCANNING IS A NEW TECHNOLOGY that is helping to shift the focus of apparel production from large quantities of cookie-cutter clothes to one-of-a-kind articles with individualized sizing and design features. A suite of technological advances, including body scanning, has given rise to an emergent strategy of "mass customization" -- bringing consumers into the design and production stages, resulting in well-fitting, made-to-measure or customized garments at competitive prices and turnaround times.
Body scanners will play a critical role in mass customization because they enable retailers to rapidly collect three-dimensional (3D) data for each consumer. Computer software can then analyze the high-resolution images of the body to extract precise, standardized tailoring measurements. In conjunction with advanced design and production processes, body scanners will thus allow consumers to benefit from a modern form of custom tailoring and automated size selection.
Traditional mass-produced clothing will also be improved as a result of body scan technology. Industry and academic researchers are using large amounts of anthropometric (body measurement) data captured by body scanners to adjust the sizing systems of ready-to-wear clothing lines so that everyone in the target population is better fitted.
Another application of body scanning, currently under development, allows consumers to "try on" garments in a virtual environment. An individual's scan is visualized on a computer while clothing of various sizes is superimposed (in 3D) on a rotatable image. The computer application highlights areas of good and bad fit, helping the user to select the most appropriate product.
The Scanner at Cornell University
Cornell professor Susan Ashdown (see Contributors) is at the leading edge of apparel research using a 3D body scanner. Our original Human Solutions scanner was purchased in 2000 thanks to the generous donation of alumna Rebecca Quinn Morgan. Since then, we have upgraded the Human Solutions scanner and purchased a [TC]2 scanner. These scanners have generated numerous educational and research projects.
Students in a variety of classes have been scanned and have learned about scanner applications experientially. One class that studies human anthropometry used it as a tool for comparing sizes and shapes of a student population. A design class used it in combination with computer-assisted patternmaking equipment to develop made-to-measure jackets. A class studying the mass customization business strategy analyzed likely commercial applications for body scan data in the apparel industry.
At this early stage of development, topics for research include the evaluation of the scanner itself, its data output, and its potential applications. Of the variety of scanners available for purchase, a VITUS/smart 3D Body Scanner by Human Solutions was originally selected for the research program at Cornell University because its size, technical operation, and data-generating system were most compatible with our primary research functions. Subsequently, we traded in this scanner for a new Human Solutions VITUS XXL scanner with a larger scan volume. We also purchased a [TC]2 NX12 portable scanner in order to conduct 3D scan research off campus.
The Human Solutions scanner uses eight cameras and four eye-safe lasers to capture about 300,000 data points for each scan. The scanning process takes only 12 seconds. The resolution of the final scan is 1 mm increments horizontally and 2 mm increments vertically. The camera views overlap generously, providing a good scan image. The [TC]2 scanner is similar in resolution and duration of the scanning process, but uses white light. The scan booth is a light-tight box, and the scan data is cleaned, merged and patched automatically.
Beyond the Apparel Industry
There are applications for body scan data outside the apparel industry. The airline, automobile, and tractor industries have used scan data to develop seats that are optimized for the highest number of body types. The entertainment industry has used scans to develop animations, most recently of sports stars for video games. Health clubs have applied body scan technology to evaluate the effects of workout programs using "before" and "after" comparisons. The use of body scanners is in its infancy. Many future applications are yet to be discovered.
Begin by viewing some visualizations of body scan data...