3D Body Scanning: Fitting the future

‘We have our very own 3D body scanner now’ was a newsflash that captured the attention of students and teachers when it passed through the doorways of our institute earlier this year. It snatched the last free spot in a room of the basement many students have never seen before. However, the body scanner is built upon a story that shouldn’t be locked up in a dark back room.

3D Body Scanner AMFI Amsterdam Fashion Institute

Lisette starting up the software for the body scanner.

Hein Daanen, scientist and head of AMFI’s Fashion & Technology research team, describes the body scanner as a forward development of 1995 – a result of fitting problems indeed nowhere else but Hollywood. ‘Dressers always had the problem of accessing the busy actors for fitting the costumes, so their solution was to create a permanently available dummy.’ Hollywood may have staged the innovation in 3D, but it did not take long until the American military realised its benefits. Daanen got a phone call from the US Air Force, offering him a job concerning the scanner’s application for fitting military uniforms. As he felt like going abroad anyway, Hein moved together with his young family to a small town close to the Air Force base. At that time, 3D body scanning technology was still at an early stage.

Hein Daanen - Lisette Vonk

Hein Daanen and Lisette Vonk in the plotter room where the 3D body scanner is housed.

Nearly ten years later, and after many technological advances, Hein is working on several research projects at AMFI. He invited me to participate, and admittedly I was tempted to try the scanner myself. Hein provided me with special underwear-like garments to put on inside the cabin of the machine, to allow the measuring process to be more exact. I had to position myself appropriately and follow the short instructions of the computer. Surprisingly, no bright laser beams investigated my body. Actually, the scanner can barely be seen, as it contains different lenses that work with infra-red light. After just three minutes, my body was summed up on two A4s of measurements. My recent fast food experience was showing as I frowned at my 3D avatar on a computer screen.

3D Body Scan - Fashion Technology & Reasearch

My 3D avatar made from my measurements.

The 3D scanning software expert Lisette Vonk reassured me. ‘The simulation always lets you look bigger.’ The scanner also measured me a few centimeters shorter, to which Lisette replied: ‘This is what many people are telling me, all the measurements seem very accurate except for sometimes the height.’ Validating the measurement outcomes and determining if the scanner can meet professional expectations is also part of her research.

SizeStream 3D Body Scanner at AMFI

The lenses of one of the scanning components inside of the machine.

The body scanner is already being used by some students to measure their models. ‘Scanning is way more precise than hand measuring’, Lisette expains. Currently Hein’s team, including scientists Ad Vink and Laura Duncker, is working to import the scans to 3D virtual prototyping software Lectra.The goal is to have this become a main part of AMFI’s Hypercraft programme in the future. Lisette: ‘Briefly said, Lectra calculates and visualises the space between the body and the garment. Our main goal is to support the students in using the scanner to realise their designs.’

 Text by second-year International Fashion & Management student Enni Mönkediek.

Photography by second-year International Fashion & Branding student Vanessa Huss.


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