A new online materials database has been launched to provide brands and manufacturers with a more streamlined and collaborative way of selecting material samples and swatches – as well as populating PLM data for the product creation process.

The Material Exchange has been developed in collaboration with industry manufacturers, brands, Material Exchange Ventures AB, and the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), the footwear industry's business and trade association.

The cloud-based solution runs on PTC's FlexPLM platform, and enables users to reduce the unnecessary production of physical material samples and swatches.

Digital material visualisation during the design process can aid decision-making regarding colourways, design, and material before producing physical or virtual prototypes, further increasing efficiency.

Traditionally, brands and manufacturers sift through dozens of physical material swatch books to find the appropriate material for their design and development projects.

Leveraging digitalisation, Material Exchange's online materials database can be searched, filtered, and downloaded, helping users to reduce time and manual data entry.

The new platform enables companies to pull material specs and pictures into 3D design programmes – allowing them to change materials and colourways instantly and continuously throughout the design process. It also enables development teams to gain line-of-sight into material costs, availability, quality, and compliance issues.

"Together with PTC and many top brands, we've developed a platform that has the potential to forever change the way companies design and develop shoes," explains Andy Polk, senior vice president, FDRA.

"For brands, using the platform will enable them to reduce development risks – allowing designers and developers to test designs and improve compliance before production, as well as reducing man hours.

"Further, Material Exchange will not only enable users to lower costs, but will also enable them to increase sales as the catalyst for the next generation of stylish shoes, clothes, and accessories."

Chris Hillyer, director of innovation at Deckers Brands, adds: "We can gain tremendous insight with digital visualisation capabilities, enabling us to save both time and resources."