Air Force's CAESAR finds the perfect fit

The Air Force has embarked on a project to collect detailed data on human body measurements using a full-color, 3-D laser scanner that leaves the traditional tape measure in the dust.

The Air Force hopes the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropo-metry Resource (CAESAR) project improves the design of uniforms, helmets, anti-gravity suits and even the cockpit of fighter jets so that clothes and equipment fit airmen better.

"With the old technology, we had very little information, and a lot of the shaping was done with artistic interpretation," said Kathleen Robinette, program manager for CAESAR at the Air Force research laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio.

The new data will give designers a lot more information, including how one body measurement relates to another and data on hard-to-measure places such as under the arms and the inner side of the knee.

"The end result will be a complete 3-D surface [image] of the body— the shape, surface area, volume and the contours— all things we couldn't get before," Robinette said. "This will increase our precision, increase the quality...and reduce the time it takes to design something."

The new technology is particularly timely for the military because advanced warfighting equipment has made airmen's gear more complex. Helmets, for example, now have to support noise-reduction ear cups and various head-mounted computer or night vision displays, Robinette said. It has become harder to design the equipment, making precise measurements important.

Measuring Up

Under the $6 million CAESAR project, researchers will collect the measurements of 4,000 Americans and about 7,000 Europeans. Volunteers are asked to put on snug exercise clothes and stand on a round platform during one scan and sit during two others. Each scan lasts about 17 seconds.

The scanning apparatus was made by Cyberware, Monterey, Calif., and consists of a platform surrounded by four yellow boxes, each about the size of a 27-inch TV. A laser projects a horizontal plane on the subject while two digital cameras capture coordinates. When the scan is complete, raw data files are merged on Silicon Graphics Inc. workstations using Cyberware software.

Several companies, including General Motors Corp., Boeing Co. and Levi Strauss & Co., have signed on as partners in the project, paying a $40,000 fee to gain early access to the data and to participate in decisions about how the data should be collected and processed, said Gary Lecuru, sales and marketing manager for cooperative research programs with the Society of Automotive Engineers.

SAE is collecting the fee and using it to pay $1 million of the research costs and to support the partnership program, Lecuru said.

Each of the companies that have paid to have access to the data is involved with design of something that humans have to fit into, Lecuru said. The apparel companies are especially interested so they can standardize sizes and create better-fitting and even custom-made clothing.

Measurement teams carrying out the CAESAR project already have visited Los Angeles, Detroit and Ames, Iowa. The team plans to collect data in a few other U.S. cities, including Dayton and a location in the South and a location in the Northeast. The European phase of the project will be carried out by a Dutch company and will begin later this year.

Lecuru said anyone who wants to volunteer to be scanned can call (888) 520-8808 for information.


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