Air Force fosters worldwide anthropometry resources
By John Schutte, AFRL Human Effectiveness Directorate
/ Published December 07, 2006
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- One researcher's vision of a 3-D anthropometric database has morphed into a nascent worldwide organization, uniting 10 countries on six continents, in a quest to better fit the human body with its clothing, technology and environment.
Dr. Kathleen Robinette, principal research anthropologist for the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate led a series of groundbreaking anthropometric advances, including formation of the World Engineering Anthropometry Resource (WEAR). Sponsored by the Air Force Office for Scientific Research, WEAR bills itself as "an international collaboration between researchers and users of anthropometric databases for practical application."
Through WEAR, a not-for-profit organization headquartered in France, Dr. Robinette nurtures a worldwide user consortium and is building a database of engineering, anthropometry and fit data.
Through multiple Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contracts, Dr. Robinette has advised companies on applications ranging from better fitting clothing, protective equipment and military body armor, to more comfortable and ergonomically correct car interiors and office chairs.
WEAR's vanguard was a precedent-setting collection of 3-D human body surface scans known as CAESAR, the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource, which cataloged 3-D scans of North Americans and Europeans of various weights, shapes and sizes, ages 18 to 65, plus hands-on measurements of each subject.
CAESAR unfolded via a CRADA between AFRL's Human Effectiveness Directorate and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), with 35 commercial companies in the original partnership including Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Company, The Boeing Company, John Deere and the Ford Motor Company.
General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (GDAIS) now has a CRADA to operate AFRL's Computerized Anthropometric Research & Design lab and serve as liaison for commercial companies to gain access to AFRL's anthropometric research facilities.
Dr. Robinette's early goals were to harmonize the diverse group and convince them that using 3-D human body cases lead to better ergonomic designs than statistical percentiles.
"Case methods are reality based rather than statistics-based mathematical constructs," says Dr. Robinette. "Using cases, you select a whole person based on their particular combination of body dimensions and what's important for your design."
A CRADA with the University of Washington seeks to develop a next-generation dynamic design tool for full exploitation of 3-D data. Ten SBIR contractors are contributing biomechanics engineering expertise.
Manufacturers around the world now use CAESAR data to gain a competitive edge. Through a CRADA with AFRL, GDAIS is currently responsible for fabricating fit-model mannequins for Gap, Inc.'s Forth & Towne women's wear. Daisy Veitch, managing director of SHARP Dummies in Australia, combines CAESAR data with her proprietary process to design the life-like mannequins.
The Ford Motor Company is using CAESAR-derived virtual mannequins to design automotive interiors that better accommodate its customers, including physically larger Americans, based on reports from the American Medical Association that nearly one-third of Americans are classified as obese.
Direct private-industry involvement "was extremely valuable," Dr. Robinette said. "It helped me understand the knowledge level of ergonomics and anthropometry in the different industries, which is really helpful in determining how to solve the unique problems facing each industry."