Coventry, UK —A brassiere (bra) described as "the most radical newcomer in underwear design for decades," owes much of its comfort, fit, and support to a combination of polymer supporting structures and design based on laser scanning. Within two months of Bioform's October 2000 UK launch, manufacturer Charnos had sold $2.9 million worth of the bras at $50 each—double the price of a conventional bra.
In mid-1999, Nottingham, UK-based Charnos commissioned design company Seymour Powell of London to produce a bra with an alternative support system to conventional underwiring. This can sometimes cause discomfort to the wearer as well as damage to washing machines.
Seymour Powell brought in scanning company 3D Scanners, which arranged to produce detailed scans using its ModelMaker system. The company scanned more than 60 women to give Seymour Powell the data to produce designs for eight different production sizes. The women were selected following the broadcast of radio ads on a station near the manufacturer's plant.
The Bioform solution is based around molded plastic components not usually associated with lingerie design. In fact, the design is more usually associated with that of a frisbee. The wired supports of the conventional bra have been replaced with anatomically profiled cups. Key advantages are greater wearer comfort and no more danger of wires detaching and damaging washing machines.
Jim Clark, business development manager at 3D Scanners, said, "Usually we are working in automotive design, typically measuring clay models of cars that are under development. Seymour Powell wanted us to use our technology to make some quick but detailed scans of dozens of breasts. The point clouds that we produced had hundreds of thousands of points—every 0.2 mm on the breast—enabling development of detailed cross sections and surface shapes. We then made a surface models of the key area the designers were interested in—the underside of the breast, which was supplied to Seymour Powell."
Charnos Chairman Tony Hodges said, "The original concept came from a television program 'Designs on Your Product' that was asking various industries to re-think established designs of consumer products. Seymour Powell challenged the orthodoxy that bras need to be underwired to give support because this was a key factor in wearer discomfort in recent years. They came up with the 3D support idea instead."
The structure comprises an under-cup support "paddle" made from a hard polymer which is sandwiched with a softer co-polymer support, perforated for coolness. It's not simply a case of putting inserts into a conventional bra design—it's a new design altogether.
Hodges added, "Once we had the data, the development phase took us about nine months to get the right balance between softness, hardness, 'bendiness,' and recoverability of the polymer. We are not releasing the exact details of the polymer and co-polymer that we have used."
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about ModelMaker from 3D Scanners: Enter 542
3D Scanners develops high-speed laser scanning systems for various industries and applications. A 3D scanner is a portable, non-contact optical measurement system that allows the user to scan complex parts in a fraction of the time taken by conventional touch probe digitizing techniques. 3D Scanners' key products are variants of ModelMaker, a hand-held non-contact scanning system. ModelMaker scans a large variety of materials and colors, including black, and works in almost any lighting conditions. The object's surface is simply "painted" onto the screen in real-time. The package supports a bodyline coordinate system. An accurate mechanical ball probe aligns data to the coordinate system of the user's choice. ModelMaker's Windows NT-compatible software outputs data in a variety of standard formats. Scanning at 25 profiles per second, there are several ModelMaker W systems: W35 offers the highest resolution; W70 is described as "general purpose"; W140 is lower resolution but offers higher-speed scanning. Another version, ModelMaker H40, is the company's latest reverse engineering and inspection sensor, which scans at 12.5 profiles per second.
Giles Gaskell, director of global support at 3D Scanners, predicts, "In the next two years, there will be a dramatic change in the way that measurement of product quality is undertaken. Optical non-contact scanning will be the agent for change. Recently, there have been two key changes in the technology itself and the environment surrounding it. The first is that non-contact optical solutions have finally emerged from the university laboratory in a form that was rugged, portable, and accurate. At the same time, software has been developed that enables full integration of a scanner into a company's CAD and PDM systems."