3D Body Scanning — Benefits and Applications

The human body is complex, and multiple fields and industries rely on getting accurate measurements of it. Thanks to 3D body scanning, we’re now able to get detailed representations of our bodies faster and easier than ever. 3D scanning, in …

Ile Kauppila

February 23, 2022

The human body is complex, and multiple fields and industries rely on getting accurate measurements of it. Thanks to 3D body scanning, we’re now able to get detailed representations of our bodies faster and easier than ever.

3D scanning, in general, has advanced massively in the past couple of decades. We started with astronomically expensive and clunky scanners that fill half a room, only to produce a blurry approximation of the scanned object’s — or body’s — shape. Now, we have lightweight handheld 3D scanners no bigger than a power drill that create extremely sharp details, like Peel 3D scanners.

We’ve written in the past about how 3D scanning is revolutionizing multiple industries, like automotive manufacture and dental care. Now, let’s look at how 3D body scanning helps us understand our bodies and for which applications it’s most suitable.

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What is 3D Body Scanning?

Simply put, 3D body scanning mean capturing an image of the entire of a part of the human body with a 3D scanner. But although that explanation may sound simple, the act of scanning a person in three dimensions is everything but.

3D scanners are sensitive devices that require the scanned object to either be perfectly skill or move in a predictable manner (such as scanning something on a turntable). Humans, however, are notoriously bad at staying still, and something as simple as breathing can throw a scanner off. This is why early 3D scans resulted in, at best, a vaguely human-shaped blob.

But the technology has advanced in strides and accurate 3D body scanning is now used in multiple industries. Modern devices are better at processing scanned data and have learned to ignore certain degree of movement. The scanners have gotten incredibly accurate as well.

As such, it is possible to 3D scan a person with stupendous accuracy, even in colour, as long as you use the right technology.

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3D Body Scanning Technologies …

3D body scanning isn’t a single monolithic technology. Different scanners, even from the same manufacturer may use different methods of capturing an image. However, in 3D body scanning, the three most common technologies are:

  • Structured Light: These kinds of 3D scanners, such as the Peel scanners we mentioned, project light onto the scanned object. Cameras on the scanners observe distortions in the light that’s reflected back to recreate the three-dimensional surface. Photogrammetry scanners are safe to the eyes and don’t usually require targeting markers, though they may struggle with dark, shiny, or transparent surfaces.
  • Laser Scanners: Laser scanners, as the name implies, fire off a focused laser beam. Sensors attached to the laser emitters measure the distance between the emitters and the target to construct the 3D image. These scanners can be exceedingly accurate, but the laser beams may be harmful to human eyes.
  • Photogrammetry: Photogrammetry scanners take multiple photos of an object at once and then stitch the picture into a complete 3D model. For the scale of a human body, these scanners are usually booth-sized.
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Full-Body or Handheld Scanning?

If you’re looking to do human 3D scanning, you have to decide what size the scanner you need should be. Your options essentially fall between full-body and handheld scanners.

Full-body 3D scanners are large machines, which scan a person’s entire body in one go. They can be very fast, performing a full scan in 10 seconds or less. However, they are very costly, and not suited for most operations outside of medical institutions.

Handheld scanners, on the other hand, are lightweight and significantly cheaper. You can get a capable handheld 3D scanner for a few thousand pounds.

The lower cost doesn’t mean poor scan quality, though. Handheld scanners can capture intricate details. For example, the smallest details the Peel 2 scanner can scan in full colour are only 0.1 mm in size.

Handheld scanners are also suitable for scanning larger objects, such as the human body. Furthermore, if you routinely scan only parts of the body, like hands or feet, a handheld scanner is your only option — a full-body scanner would be completely oversized for your needs, after all.

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Advantages of 3D Body Scanners …

3D body scanning offers significant benefits over traditional body imaging methods, like casts or physical measuring. These include:

  1. Higher Accuracy: Human 3D scanning is a high-accuracy technology, with most scanners having a high resolution to produce very detailed 3D models. They can detect tiny details that a human eye would most likely miss.
  2. Faster Measurements: As mentioned, a full-body scanner can scan a person in a few seconds, and even handheld scanners will get the job done in a few minutes.
  3. More Cost-Efficient: With 3D scanners, you will not have to spend money on plaster or other casting materials. Their fast speed also means you’ll be able to perform several scans a day.
  4. Non-invasive: 3D body scanning requires zero contact between you and the person you’re scanning. There are no health risks, making it a suitable technology for many healthcare applications.
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Applications of 3D Body Scanning …

Now that we know what 3D body scanning is, how it works, and what its benefits are, let’s explore some real-life use cases for the technology.

Medical Industry …

As we’ve already mentioned multiple times, the medical and healthcare industries are quickly becoming 3D body scanning power users. In the medical field, body 3D scanning is employed in four primary applications.

In epidemiology, 3D scanners are used to observe the distribution and determining factors of certain health conditions among the population. For example, body mass measurements carried out with a 3D scanner can help determine obesity rates.

3D scanning can help doctors during diagnosis, since they can easily measure and visualize deformities and analyse skin conditions. In treatment, on the other hand, accurate measurements of a patient’s body type and mass can assist doctors in administering the right amounts of medications.

Finally, 3D scanning a patient’s body can help in monitoring their condition, for example while pregnant or dieting. As a result, doctors are able to provide patients with better care.

Prosthetics …

Connected to the medical industry, but worth mentioning as a field of its own, are prosthetics. 3D scanners allow doctors and prosthetics manufacturers to create an extremely detailed model of the patient’s limb.

Combined with a 3D printer, the scan data can serve as a basis for fully customized artificial limbs. As a result, the prosthetics will be more well-fitting, durable, and comfortable.

Clothes and Apparel …

3D body scanning first emerged within the fashion industry, and it’s easy to see why. Highly accurate 3D scans of a customer’s body make it much easier to clothes companies and tailors to create comfortable, perfectly fitted clothes, shoes, and accessories faster and cheaper.

The scanners can also help online retailers reduce the staggering 40% return rate with online clothes purchases. With an accurate 3D mannequin and a virtual fitting room, online shoppers can ensure their clothes fit well.

Fitness …

Body 3D scanners have also found a home at gyms and fitness studios. They can help personal coaches and trainers monitor their clients’ progress, whether with weight loss or muscle build-up. Keeping track of their body composition can help people do the right exercises at the right time to get the best results.

To learn more about 3D body scanning and its applications, get in touch with SolidPrint3D. Our experts will be happy to help you. Call us on 01926 333 777 or email us at info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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