3D design and prototyping tools are starting to make their mark with a multitude of uses

3D design and prototyping tools are starting to make their mark with a multitude of uses

Although there are many continuous developments in technology, every so often a giant leap occurs with the potential to bring huge benefits to apparel retailers, brands and manufacturers. 3D CAD is undoubtedly the next major advance for the sewn products industry in a world where speed to market, cost reductions and the elimination of waste are paramount.

"3D is here and it's transforming the way brands can design, develop and produce fashion. It has the power to digitise a $1.3 trillion industry, and consequently deliver huge business value by making the industry faster, more sustainable, and freer to be innovative and creative" – Optitex

Although there are many continuous developments in technology, every so often a giant leap occurs with the potential to bring huge benefits to apparel retailers, brands and manufacturers.

Take apparel design and pattern cutting for example. In the 1980s computers were becoming affordable, small and powerful enough for use in pattern digitalisation, manipulation and marker making. The latter showed immediate results of 5% minimum in fabric savings alone, but the longer-term ramifications of this development have been enormous. 

With a digital marker, automated CNC cutting rapidly followed with improvements in cutting quality and reductions in labour cost. Many repetitive functions within the pattern cutting arena could be automated, as could grading. Automated marker making can in some cases now yield higher material utilisation than a highly experienced human.

3D CAD is undoubtedly the next major advance for the sewn products industry in a world where speed to market, cost reductions and the elimination of waste are paramount.

Although this is now commonplace in the aeronautical, automotive, furniture and shoe sectors, development in the apparel industry has been slow and complex; mainly due to the draping and stretching properties inherent in fabric, which are not only radically different between different fabric types and constructions, but also in the direction of weave or knit within the piece.

Movement of fabric on the body also needs to be considered, as does the ability to see how a virtual design fits and moves on a virtual mannequin or avatar moving around in a virtual reality setting, whether a catwalk or, for sportswear, actually performing the sport.

The morphology, sizing and shaping of the avatars are also key. Morgan Tecnica explains its advanced 3Dress avatar is soft and deformable, according to the garment structure. The body, especially in some specific areas, can actually be adapted and shaped by the garment, like when wearing a push-up bra or a bottom push-up legging, or whenever the garment causes a higher compression.

Past editions of the Texprocess trade fair have seen this technology developing through its infancy and adolescence – but now it is coming of age, and with it, some of the extended ramifications it can eventually offer.

Fitting of different styles and sizes on virtual mannequins reduces, and ultimately may eliminate, the expensive and time-consuming requirement for fit testing of actual garments. The fit of a pattern with multiple layering is now possible, even dressing a virtual size mannequin with a shirt, waistcoat and suit with all the paddings, facings, interlinings and different fabric types that involves; a highly complex procedure.

This includes adapting the position, size or shape of any or all pattern pieces within those garments and the ability to immediately see the effect three-dimensionally on the virtual finished garment as you make the amendments.

3D Simulation with Vidya – Human Solutions Group, Assyst:

A whole virtual collection can be produced in all sizes in different fabrics and colours in advance of any cloth being cut. Effective range meetings can be held with participants interacting with the range over the internet from different continents with no physical sample ever having been made.

Currently, apparently 25-40% of all online sales end in returns, with the main reason being fit. By enabling consumers to input their own key measurements and browse through an online catalogue seeing exactly how each garment will fit on their own 'body' will reduce returns, and thus cost, whilst increasing both customer confidence and sales.

3D is Changing Fashion ­– Optitex:

Digital printing technology is reported to have a projected average annual growth rate of 26%. However, as with all printing there is much waste as all the printed fabric between pattern pieces in the marker is waste.

If you integrate digital print design within the 3D CAD system, you can not only see the virtual garment made from that fabric, you can also adapt the material design and placement for each size. Once finalised and the marker produced, you should then be able to print out only the pattern pieces onto cloth.

With a camera system linked to single ply cutting, the cutter should be able to follow the edges of the pattern pieces automatically to totally automate the process.

"Using a streamlined approach to image-pattern placement, apparel production professionals save time and eliminate unwanted steps in their production workflows, and gain the fullest advantage from using digital printing in their apparel manufacturing and marketing operations"Gerber Technology.

Using 4DAlize technology, Audaces claims to be able to "split your effort in half and double your production," enabling the original design to be carried out in three-dimensions on a virtual mannequin, then flatten that design back into the 2D pattern. 

Idea 4D – Audaces:

It does not seem so far-fetched that at some stage designing direct onto a 3D avatar, with fabric pattern placement and design manipulation, will enable automated 2D pattern creation directly from that 3D design.

With automated grading one could then go directly into virtual size fits. Costing and digital printing, only where required, then cutting, could also be automated, with all information directly linked into the company's control system. Maybe in the future clothing production as we know it might even be replaced by 3D printing?

3D CAD is now a serious tool with a multitude of uses, from virtual try-ons, fitting, marketing catalogues, online sales, virtual catwalks, collection planning and much else, but the ramifications of this will have even more impact in the future. 

The latest developments in 3D CAD will be shown at Texprocess, a four-day event being held from 9-12 May 2017 at the Frankfurt Exhibition Grounds in Frankfurt, Germany. Click here to find out more.