Textile Digitalization

2020 in 3D

As In-Person Events and Meetings Cease, Textiles Take Shape Online.

Taiwan-based Frontier has developed a co-working software service specializing in digitizing fabrics ideal for “e-commerce 5.0” fashion.

In a time of Zoom meetings and virtual trade shows, Taiwan-based Frontier has experienced increased demand for its digital fabric development platform. The co-working software as a service (SaaS) designed to digitize fabrics, enhance supply chain management and employ 3D design capabilities launched in April 2019. Frontier’s platform has over 20,000 materials from mills in Asia Pacific, allowing users to upload textiles with a scanner to the firm’s cloud, enabling members to communicae and develop products.

“COVID-19 shrank everyone’s wallet and has put many brands out of business, so there’s a surge in interest to cut costs,” explained Wayne Fan, chief strategy officer at Frontier. “People also want to move their assets into the cloud for security and remote work.”

With teams spread out all over the world, Frontier strives to make it easy for mills, brand partners and suppliers to upload fabrics. The firm’s artificial intelligence processes the data by clustering, tagging and reducing noise. “Making fabrics more realistic and garment rendering more accurate is only one aspect of 3D technology,” the exec noted. “The central theme these days is raising awareness toward digital transformation, implementation of 3D into daily workflow and supply chain adaptability.” Brands like Under Armour, for one, have moved into 3D garment design to potentially increase margin, speed to market and make improved sales decisions based on gathered data.

For consumers, Fan sees “E-Commerce Fashion 5.0,” as he has coined it, coming sooner than previously imagined. “Imagine you browse a dress shirt online (3D rendered) and a body scan taken with your phone; you click and make payment, then a fulfillment center aggregates these orders where fabric materials get shipped from Indonesia to NYC where some machinery design to cut and make dress shirts best, then the product is shipped to your home in two weeks with competitive pricing.” The technology is available, he said, “and the market is finally ripe for adoption.”

“In Action” Images

At the material library of New York City-based material science firm, Material ConneXion, members are currently allowed to visit the archives by appointment only. Clients including Adidas, Puma and Nike have access to innovative, sustainable materials and technologies from 75+ industries. During this time “we still offer samples to see and touch. We continue to update and add materials, processes and technologies,” said Andrew Dent, PhD, executive vice president of materials research. However, Dent and his team have changed the organization of the physical samples to better accommodate solutions for technology platforms such as lightweight, 3D printing, insulation, high performance and new resins.

Clients are still doing a lot of research, the exec said, with enhanced emphasis on sustainability and a circular economy. Anti-bacterial also has experienced renewed concern, for reasons beyond anti-odor, and new natural fibers including “plastic-free” are on client’s minds.

To help simplify a client’s experience, the firm has improved its search capabilities to include a lot of performance, property and sustainability information, as well as technical datasheets, as available. For those who cannot travel to a physical library location, Material ConneXion offers online workshops and Zoom conference calls. The best option for Dent is sending physical samples to clients, as well as high -resolution digital images of materials “in-action” (stretching, bending, draping, etc.).

Bringing Textiles to Life

To enhance the apparel purchasing experience for the consumer, Snap36 automates image capture using robotic equipment and workflow software. 360 degree and 3D spin photography ensure customers will see every “stitch, seam, sequin and stripe,” according to the firm. Caleres, Rocky Brands and Greg Norman Collection are clients. To show a virtual walk down the catwalk, the firm’s Virtual Rotating Runway (VRR) lets the end-user witness how clothing fits and moves on a live model. The secret is a treadmill set flush to a platform, enabling the model to walk as the platform rotates 360 degrees.

Italian IT management firm Assyst offers digitalization of design and sampling with technology that delivers 3D garments on a screen. Images are so lifelike, from silhouette to fabric, that they appear to be real samples to the naked eye. Benefits include waste reduction at the sample stage, plus an increasingly controlled delivery in production, with fewer garment rejections and an accelerated speed from sampling approval to production.