The human body is incredibly complex. And the hands and feet are among the most complex body parts. Fitting products on hands and feet requires extensive understanding of the size and shape of not only the whole hand or foot, but of their various parts. Our database includes all the length and width measurements for fingers on more than 9,000 people. That same database includes numerous hand and foot measurements as well. Even with all that data, sometimes using a hand or foot scanner can provide the best solutions for more complex hand or foot projects.
At Anthrotech, we have the Infoot Scanner from I-Ware. Using that scanner, we captured 3D images of thousands of soldiers’ feet during the U.S. Army anthropometric survey. After that survey, we developed a way to use the foot scanner to capture 3D data on hands as well. For past projects with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the team used the NIOSH 2D hand scanner, which automatically extracts linear dimensions from the flat image. Our 3D scanner allows us to extract those same linear dimensions, but also provides 3D shape of the hand, which is often very useful.
We have completed several projects using hand and foot scans. Data from the 2D NIOSH hand scans were used to gather the lengths and breadths of individual fingers for improving the fit of protective gloves. Better-fitting protective gloves—like those used in the sometimes-risky meat processing industry—improve safety for professionals using sharp edges and knives in their work.
In another project, using our Infoot 3D scanner, we scanned hands in various positions to help the designers of wrist-worn devices for the IT industry. The client wanted to understand the shape of the wrist and forearm when the hand was actively involved in various activities. These scans helped our client better understand the dynamic changes in wrist shape; that understanding helped them create a better-fitting product.
The Future of Hand and Foot Scans
While we have completed many hand and foot scan projects, there are still lots of opportunities for continued exploration in this field. One area of potentially explosive growth is custom shoes. There have been a number of attempts to create custom shoes from foot scans, but these have not been commercially successful so far. One issue may be the cost of creating one pair of shoes at a time, but we believe there are niche markets—high-level athletics, for example—where cost is less important than perfect fit. Another application is the use of the 3D scan to recommend a shoe size or style. This could be particularly useful in the running market and has been used experimentally in a few stores.
A potential application for hand scans would be custom-molded hand grips for high-end bicycles or game controllers. With appropriate software, skilled designers could also produce custom hand tools for surgery or dentistry that could be printed with a 3D printer. Custom gloves are also a possibility, but companies may run into manufacturing issues.
We have enjoyed the work we have done scanning hand and feet, and we look forward to doing leading-edge work with new clients to use scans to produce better products.