Research Project May Revolutionize Apparel Industry
Mount Pleasant MI (SPX) Nov 02, 2007
Who hasn't wished for clothing constructed to fit his or her own body more effectively? Or for clothing that did a better job wicking away moisture? Or even garments that could keep the warmest areas of your body a little cooler and the coolest spots a little warmer?
"Exploration of Functional Design Issues that Interface with the Human Body," a recently funded project led by Central Michigan University human environmental studies professor Tanya Domina, a member of the apparel merchandising and design faculty, may help turn those wishes for more comfortable, functional apparel into realities.
Domina and research partners Maureen MacGillivray, professor of HEV in the AMD program; Terry Lerch, assistant professor of engineering and technology; and Patrick Kinnicutt, assistant professor of science informatics in the geology and computer science departments are investigating whether body size and composition, along with other factors, are tied to the body's thermal production; their results may assist in the creation of highly customized garments.
A grant from the university's CMU 2010 fund, which was created to provide financial backing for projects that promote collaboration among university programs and departments and address priorities identified in the university's vision plan, will finance the research.
"3-D body mapping and its accompanying thermal profile database is a critical component in the creation of the nanotech smart fabrics and wearable technology," Domina wrote in the project proposal. "This research project places CMU in a unique position to be the leader in applied research in an emerging field of study, such as wearable technology, and as a site of multidisciplinary, collaborative research that examines design issues that interface with the human body."
Using CMU's laser body scanner, which creates a 3-D image based on 350,000 points of data, along with the university's environmental chamber and a pair of infrared thermal cameras, the faculty researchers are building a database of 3-D body maps, thermal profiles, and demographic and psychographic profiles.
Thus far, the database contains more than 400 subjects ranging in age from 8 to 87, said Domina and MacGillivray. Because so much data has already been collected, the project is ahead of schedule, and the focus is shifting to data analysis during the 2007-08 academic year.
Among the $393,328 project's anticipated outcomes:
" Garment-testing and body-scanning activities;
" Creation of a 2-D/3-D body-mapping process;
" Thermal database and data-mining activities;
" Undergraduate and graduate students actively involved in faculty/industry collaborative research projects (including a much-publicized collaboration with Reebok on testing the National Hockey League's new uniforms);
" Scholarly journal publications and presentations at national and international conferences by the research team members and students; and
" Partially or fully funded research projects with textile/apparel companies.
All four research team members are incorporating the project into their classroom teaching, and their students are all learning how to use the sophisticated, high-tech equipment for class projects and even their own research.
"Companies' research and development people are telling us that we are way out ahead of the pack in terms of the work we're doing," said Domina. "No one else is doing what we're doing, and it's getting attention from big companies."
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