3-D Improves Clothing & Gear Fit for Warfighters

By Jane Benson
Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center

A new database at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, is a perfect fit for America’s soldiers.

The ANSUR II 3-D Shape Database uses three-dimensional shapes and contour data to improve the fit of clothing and equipment for warfighters. It incorporates the latest Army anthropometric survey data and 3-D whole body scans, providing a searchable platform for the data and the 3-D shapes.

The center completed the latest comprehensive anthropometric survey of soldiers, called ANSUR II, in 2012. It set out to address changes in Army personnel body size and shape. The resulting data showed that soldiers have increased in overall body girth since 1988. The study also set out to document the sizing needs of the increasing number of women serving in the military.

The 2012 data collection included 3-D scans of the head, foot and entire body. This innovation provided geometric and morphological data on military personnel that could not be obtained through traditional body measurement techniques.

Dr. Peng Li, a computer scientist on NSRDEC’s anthropology team, is working on a novel approach to use all of the 3-D scan information to define common shapes for items, such as body armor and helmets. Scans provide contour information that is essential for proper fit.

Dr. Peng Li, a computer scientist with the anthropology team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, is working with 3-D shapes to enable soldier clothing and equipment researchers to better use data to solve problems of sizing and human interface. (Photo: Jeff Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs/Released)

Dr. Peng Li, a computer scientist with the anthropology team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, is working with 3-D shapes to enable soldier clothing and equipment researchers to better use data to solve problems of sizing and human interface. (Photo: Jeff Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs/Released)

“Peng has been working on tools to make the body scans more accessible and more usable,” said Steve Paquette, a research anthropologist and team leader for NSRDEC’s anthropology team.

“We developed our own shape descriptor and query method for 3-D body scans,” Li said. “It will help determine different shapes for body armor and protection and gear for heads and faces.”

“The anthropology team’s primary mission is to maintain ‘the’ data base on soldier body size,” Paquette said. “This has been true since Natick opened. Most of the data over the years have been traditional measurements that you take with calipers and tape measures. With the 2012 study, we also took body scans, and it’s those 3-D scans that Peng has been working with. He is actually developing tools for searching 3-D shapes.”

The ANSURII 3-D Shape Database is an integrated database that provides access to both traditional measurements and 3-D scans collected in the ANSUR II survey. It allows a user to search or query body dimensions and shapes, and to download search results in spreadsheet and 3-D surface files.

The goal was to acquire data from men and women to help Army engineers, scientists and designers develop equipment, clothing, shelters, kitchens, airplane cockpits, and vehicle crew stations that best serve the dimensions of the soldier. The study included 7,435 men and 3,922 women. Based on their access to data of body measurements and their ability to analyze the data, Paquette’s anthropology team –which includes Li and Brian Corner, a 3-D morphologist– played a key role in the design of female body armor.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's anthropology team has played a role in the development of the female body armor shown here. The team's ANSUR II 3D Shape Database uses three-dimensional shapes and contour data to improve the fit of clothing and equipment for the warfighter. Accurate fit is a key component in providing optimum protection. (Photo: Dave Kamm/U.S. Army/Released)

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s anthropology team has played a role in the development of the female body armor shown here. The team’s ANSUR II 3D Shape Database uses three-dimensional shapes and contour data to improve the fit of clothing and equipment for the warfighter. Accurate fit is a key component in providing optimum protection. (Photo: Dave Kamm/U.S. Army/Released)

Women’s body dimensions are very different from their male counterparts, and they need equipment designed for them specifically. Smaller versions of items developed for males do not fit female soldiers properly. Team members devised and tested eight new sizes based on the female anatomy data. They provided statistics based on those theoretical sizes.

Peng’s work with 3-D shapes will help researchers to better use the shape data to solve problems of sizing and human interface. 3-D shape data has become an integral part of the product design process. The shapes captured by the scanner help with the design of items where close, accurate fit plays an important role in providing optimum protection, as is the case with body armor, helmets and goggles.

“Comfort, performance, safety and fit – that’s what it’s all about,” Paquette said. “If it doesn’t fit right, you don’t even want to wear it.”

Story and information provided by the U.S. Army
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