NATICK, Mass. (April 17, 2015) -- 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. The previous survey was completed in 1988. The 2012 survey set out to address changes in Army personnel body size and shape, and the resulting data showed that Soldiers have increased in overall body girth since 1988. The new 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.

"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.

"Say if you want to search for someone with a narrow head, or a wide head, Peng has been working on a shape searching tool. We not only collect data on Soldiers, we also develop tools to better use the data."

"The ANSURII 3-D Shape Database is an integrated database that provides access to both traditional measurements and 3-D scans collected in ANSUR II survey," Li said. "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 males and females 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, a computer scientist, and Brian Corner, a 3-D morphologist, played a key role in the design of female body armor.

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 eight new sizes based on the female anatomy data. They provided statistics based on those theoretical sizes.

"We worked with team leader Annette LaFleur and the design, pattern and prototype team, and they started making patterns based on that data," Paquette said. "Then we took those patterns and got prototypes made of those patterns. And then we put armor on actual women and tested it. Sometimes, you need to adjust the sizes or add an additional size."

Peng's work with 3-D shapes will help researchers to better use the shape data to solve problems of sizing and human interface.

"We work closely with human factors and biomechanics," Paquette said. "It's not just what size they are, but how the human interfaces with the environment or work station. Can they reach? Can they see? Anthropometry is just one piece of the whole picture."

3-D shape data has become an integral part of the product design process.

"First, the database allows the designers to more easily check population distribution with multiple range restriction," Li said. "For example, a designer can check how many subjects in the database fit into a box in three or five dimension ranges such as chest circumference, waist circumference and stature. Secondly, the designers can also look at a real 3-D shape of those subjects. Finally, if a user has advanced CAD [computer-aided design] systems, she or he can transfer 3-D whole body data to a CAD system as a model to be fit with a product's prototype design."

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."

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The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.