Apparel manufactured with precision
“One size fits all” is a cliché that doesn’t fit the mold for Bugao Xu, a professor and the new chair of UNT’s Department of Merchandising and Digital Retailing. Retailers know that ready-to-wear apparel is a nod to a dying experience. However, mass customization, especially for online shopping, is not easy.
That may change thanks to a patented body scanning system Xu created and has been perfecting for more than 15 years.
“The body scanning system is a foundation and starting point for the digital ecommerce of clothing,” he says, “because it can provide the individual body information needed for online shopping and customized products. Consumers always want clothing to have a personal fit.”
Completed in a half-second, a whole-body scan is done by four aligned cameras that digitally measure a person’s circumference, depth and height at major body landmarks, such as the hip, neck and breasts. The data can be fed into algorithms to calculate and formulate the proper pattern pieces of a selected garment or a personally fit size for a specific brand. Individual body information also can be transmitted to a manufacturer for rapid production.
The system could be a boon for retailers, enabling customers to perfectly size themselves both in store fitting rooms or online.
The scanners also could be used beyond boutiques.
“Body scanning can have a lot of applications,” says Xu, who was educated as an engineer with experience in materials property testing. The trick, says Xu, is to make the system simple, affordable and convenient so that a small business is willing to invest it.
For the military, the scanners could be developed to observe the changes in soldiers’ body dimensions before and after deployment, to help design uniforms that better fit soldiers, ensuring mobility and agility, or to give technologically enhanced uniforms a proper fit for the service member’s equipment.
The technology also could help athletes monitor the effectiveness of their physical training programs.
Similarly, the scanner could provide a better outlook of one's health than the body mass index (BMI). BMI only measures total body weight and height, but this system could estimate body fat and many shape factors. Health professionals could use the body shape to identify risk factors for overall health and certain conditions like diabetes or hypertension.
“In terms of image processing technology, different industries have different applications, but the foundation is the same,” says Xu. “The goal is to expand the possibilities of the same technology to different applications.”
— Monique Bird