CMU's Apparel Merchandising and Design at forefront in industry technology

Students address apparel industry needs with latest technology
CMU’s Apparel Merchandising and Design program
Central Michigan University graduate student Benjamin Touchette is using biofeedback technology to gauge consumer’s reactions to clothing. The process measures and records the electrical activity of the brain as it responds to various clothing items. It helps manufacturers make better product decisions and save money.
 
The biofeedback equipment is just one of the latest types of technology students are exposed to in CMU’s Apparel Merchandising and Design program.
 
“Using this technology, we are at the forefront of research in the industry,” said Touchette. “The biofeedback equipment, the body scanner, the thermal manikin and thermal camera – these are all hot new research tools in the field right now, and we are learning on apparatuses that are revolutionary in the industry.”
 
Touchette is working with CMU Apparel Merchandising and Design faculty member Seung-Eun “Joy” Lee to test the brain reactions people have to viewing various apparel products. They are applying techniques used in neuroscience and clinical fields to the apparel industry.
 
“This is emerging technology that has never been used before in this way, particularly in fashion consumer studies,” said Lee. “Through our program, we try to apply cutting edge technology to critical apparel issues and help our students become innovative thinkers.”
 
Morgan Schanski, apparel merchandising and design graduate student, conducted an experiment for an exercise apparel manufacturer using the thermal manikin to simulate the sweat levels of a woman wearing their garments while running a marathon.
 
“We had to set the thermal mankin to simulate what a woman would be like when she sweats,” said Schanski. “It was my favorite project as a graduate student.”
 
CMU’s Apparel Merchandising and Design program is known nationally for its use of technology, says faculty member Tanya Domina. Faculty and students have worked with companies and organizations such as Carhartt, Lululemon, Reebok and the Atlanta Braves minor league teams, using the equipment in CMU’s lab to help address product questions for the manufacturers and sports-oriented athletic organizations.
 
“We infuse technology into the graduate program as well as the undergraduate curriculum,” said Domina. “It’s important to faculty that we not only stay current with technology in the industry, but we typically find ourselves ahead of the industry.”
 
CMU Apparel Merchandising and Design technology
 
  • Biofeedback system – The system’s three main components; sensors, data acquisition and software application measure brain activity. This technology can be used to gauge personal reaction to apparel merchandise.
 
  • Thermal manikin – The manikin allows for research of the thermal patterns of the human body. With its controlled temperature zones, the customized manikin enables researchers to gather data about human sweat patterns in various environments.
 
  • Body scanner – The scanner collects 300,000 digital data points from a subject in 15 seconds, creating a virtual image with more than 120 body measurements, allowing garments to be customized to individual dimensions.
 
  • Guarded sweating hot plate – this tests the heat and moisture flow through individual fabric swatches in a controlled environment, helping manufacturers to make better fabric decisions.
 
  • Infrared imaging system – The camera captures images to measure temperature. The software provides video streaming, allowing for real-time analysis. The mobile unit also can examine body surface temperature in various environmental conditions.
 
  • Environmental chamber – with a temperature range of minus 20 F to 180 F and extensive humidity ranges, the unit can simulate varying circumstances, thus serving as an effective tool to evaluate the design and function of apparel.

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