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Implementing 3D Virtualisation: the Challenges

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Following on from his guest post in April, Amnon Shalev, CEO & Founder of Virtuality.Fashion, continues his discussion on 3D – this time, collating what we’ve learnt so far, and applying it to the future of 3D for fashion. Virtuality.Fashion, powered by C-Design, believe in making virtual fashion prototyping effortless, affordable, and accessible to everyone.

In the 5 articles we’ve published so far for WhichPLM, we’ve been covering a wide range of technological and application related issues, which impact fashion 3D virtual prototyping implementation.

During these 18 months we have noticed how operations integrate 3D virtual prototyping capabilities into their workflow in different ways. As a conclusion it is safe to say that the “sell and forget” approach that characterized some of the 3D virtualization platforms’ vendors in the past is no longer relevant and new, consultative and project oriented implementation approaches should be considered.

To emphasize some of the elements that impact the success of 3D implementations, let’s review a few of the internal and external issues and trends as discussed in previous articles.

Demand vs. Reality

Fashion has always been very slow in adopting new, efficiency-enhancing solutions, and the technologies that were adopted over the years were at the factory level. Design and development has changed very little, and tech packs based on Illustrator files are still being emailed globally to vendors producing multiple physical samples. In this reality, 3D makes sense: the images produced are realistic enough to contribute to reducing product development lead-time and cost. That said, industry reports like Kalypso’s Evolution of Digital In Retail & Footwear indicate that up to 63% of retailers’ executives consider 3D DPC (Digital Product Creation) implementation unsuccessful. The two main options currently facing many organizations are:

  • Invest (more) in in-house 3D software – Increasing bandwidth by purchasing more systems, recruit and train more operators, or approach a wider 3D software vendors’ selection with the intention to probe several platforms in parallel, creating excellence centers. Another trend we noticed is the adoption of a wider 3D visualization software range, even solutions that originate in video gaming and cinematic applications.
  • Smart-sourcing:
    • Retailers are telling their vendors and suppliers “we don’t care how, but we want you to shift to 3D”.
    • Organizations discover the 3D as a Service (3DaaS) option.

Widening 3D Visualization Applications

Smart-sourcing to 3DaaS has exposed operations to new 3D virtualization options, mainly artistic oriented, fast 3D virtualization for marketing. Artistic 3D is based, as opposed to “technical 3D”, on virtualization solutions adopted from different industries such as video gaming, the results are hyper realistic renderings that are based on minimal input materials, pictures and even hand sketches. On the other side, technical 3D virtualization systems, based on 2D production patterns, are nowadays producing higher quality 3D renderings. Operations that are able to identify where these different solutions can benefit them will enjoy a wider range of applications and higher efficiency levels. Typically, artistic 3D will be used in the sales, marketing and line presentation process and technical 3D in the production-oriented environment.

Smart-Sourcing 3D Prototyping

3DaaS is presenting new opportunities not only for SMBs, but also for retailers and recently for vendors and production services providers. 3D sourcing can be done by local service bureaus, but since 2015 a new option, based on a mobile app and a cloud platform, offers a collaborative wide bandwidth, covering both artistic and technical 3D solutions. The main advantage of course, is agility. In addition online sharing, collaboration and ease of use makes 3DaaS a solution that can integrate into existing workflows without interrupting the way designers work.

From B2B to B2C

An increasing amount of retailers and even vendors have discovered the power of presenting and selling virtual products online (K-Bek, for example). Interactive, immersive shopping experiences are also available by leading brands such as adidas, Burberry and GAP.

Production Workflow Integration

A resonating question among many 3D users and their supply chain partners is “how can we be sure that what we approve digitally will actually be produced?”

In fact, “technical 3D” should have been resolving this issue, but experience shows that a perfect fit, fabric behavior simulation and detailing based on a production 2D pattern are still challenging tasks for many system operators as well as for technical 3D systems.

One of the solutions that 3DaaS or 3D equipped vendors can offer is a generic workflow where the input materials are the tech pack, images, fabric properties and, preferably, an OBJ file to reduce errors in the next steps. Next, the 3D artist – ideally a very experienced pattern maker or a technical designer – will create a virtual prototype representing the fit, based on a measurement chart and the rest of the input materials. Experience shows that a bad fit is sometimes more difficult to represent in 3D in comparison to a “perfect” fit. At this stage the client can correct the 2D pattern and a new 3D prototype can be generated. Once the virtual prototype is approved, a high resolution rendering can be generated. In this fashion, the 2D and 3D files are coupled and synchronized along the workflow; it does not matter if or which 3D system the client uses and the control on the production file stays on the side of the client.

Consultative Oriented Implementation

Generally speaking we, at virtuality.fashion, identified the following operations as fashion 3D virtualization potential users:

  • Retailers
  • SMBs
  • Vendors providing production services

As can be seen from the parameters mentioned above, when taking into account implementing virtual 3D prototyping, each require different, almost personalized, implementation approaches.

The success of long term 3D projects is determined in a short period as the first post installation 6 to 12 months timeframe, which includes actual installation, system integration, training, internal pilots, sales and marketing training and doctrine definition, first sales attempts, synchronizing new and shorter product development cycle with other internal departments’ planning and other unexpected issues typical to new software and workflow implementation.

An increasing number of operations are asking to implement the 3D process by trying out a new approach: integration between in-house 3D capabilities and smart-sourcing. In this way the risk is minimalized and the learning curve can be shortened. During a pre-defined pilot period the operation can collect much data about required operator skill set, the potential of selling 3D virtual prototypes to their customers, cost analysis and many other data points.

Another trend is closer cooperation between retailers and their vendors in term of 3D implementation. This is not new, but new collaboration platforms make the process easier and more sensible.

It is clear that potential 3D clients are by far more educated today in terms of what they are looking for, and of the performance of different systems on the market. They know that they need to employ operators with new skill sets and they take their time deciding how to implement 3D. This should increase the success rate of 3D implementation in the industry.

[This article can also be read in Italian, here.] 

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for over six years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like the Annual Review, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.