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Smart-Sourcing 3D Prototyping


In his third instalment of a new series for WhichPLM Amnon Shalev, CEO & Founder of Virtuality.Fashion, discusses online 3DaaS, and offers advice when selecting a 3DaaS partner. Virtuality.Fashion, powered by C-Design, believe in making virtual fashion prototyping effortless, affordable, and accessible to everyone.

Following our previous articles discussing 3D prototyping implementation entry barriers and “artistic 3D visualisation” as a solution facilitating widening 3D applications’ gamut, this article will provide a deeper insight into 3D outsourcing in general, focusing on the recently introduced Online 3D as a Service (3DaaS) concept.

As with any solution, and 3D prototyping is no exception, operations may consider 100% in-house implementation, 100% outsourced or a mix between the two. It all boils down to budget versus targets, performance and general considerations such as data integrity, human resources, features and functionalities. This process is often referred to as “smart-sourcing”.

The following section will describe the three implementation options in more detail.

In-house implementation

Most, if not all, in-house 3D prototyping is currently based on CAD 3D visualization software solutions (Technical 3D).

There are 3 main options to start with 3D:

  • Upgrade existing 2D CAD: This option involves costs associated with adding 3D modules and rendering modules, and in many cases even upgrading the CAD system. The advantage here is obviously easier implementation due to familiarity with existing systems and integration into the supply chain (e.g. file types, IT and PLM). It should be noted that some 3D systems support direct importing of CAD files, allowing a certain degree of implementation flexibility i.e. 2D/3D “mix”)
  • Replace existing 2D CAD with a new 2D/3D solution-supplier: This involves implementation of totally new CAD on top of 3D, and issues associated with new supplier selection and engagement.
  • Implement from scratch: In this case, perhaps the most important parameter beside selecting the supplier, is the flexibility and capability of the system to handle as many file formats as possible. Needless to say that the end 3D rendered result is paramount to the decision making process: which applications inside the operation the 3D simulations can fulfill?

General considerations

In all the scenarios mentioned above, there are issues related to cost of software modules, annual support service contracts, IT, legal, training, integration into supply-chain and performance related parameters such as speed of creating the 3D rendered product from the designers’ input. Users may also want to consider how important a single 2D/3D integrated platform is for them.


When evaluating 3D prototyping outsourcing, there are a few parameters to be considered.

Generally, there are two main 3D outsourcing options:

  • Local Service Bureaus.
  • Global, Online 3DaaS.

The main differences between the two options relate to capacity, agility and core technology. Many local service bureaus rely on technical 3D, which is a great outsourcing option, especially since it uses CAD files as input (i.e. once a 3D model is approved, it can be produced based on the CAD file that was its OBJ file format origin). Basically this will be an extension to the production team. The downsides relate to capacity due to limited number of software seats and workload, as well as software range.

Online 3DaaS, by definition, is more agile due to the business model based on freelancer 3D artists global teams who cover multiple time zones – hence a job can be handed by a team while it’s hosted on the cloud and shared with the client for comment and final approval. This also allows utilisation of a wider software solutions’ range.

Recent 3DaaS operations are introducing what was considered as less conventional 3D virtualisation tools in the fashion industry, such as cinematic or video gaming visualisation software solutions achieving realistic results, which can be utilised in eCommerce or product development processes since no CAD files are required as input (making the visualisation process faster). Obviously, in this case the 3D simulation cannot be used for production, but as a visual input for the pattern maker.

Selecting a 3DaaS Partner

There are some points to consider when selecting your 3DaaS partner:

  • Ease of use: How user-friendly is the service? 3DaaS, by definition, is a remote service. The interface with the service must be intuitive and supporting as many file formats as possible.
  • Accessibility: I would suggest that 3DaaS should be accessed via any platform, especially mobile. Check if access is enabled via designers’ software e.g. Adobe Illustrator.
  • Quality: What is the quality required? The technology that the 3DaaS partner is utilising will determine the applications’ range that the 3D models can be used for. It is recommended to ask for samples, demo or run a pilot.
  • Collaboration: does your 3DaaS partner offer collaborative tools? In today’s product development environment collaboration is paramount. A virtual showroom might be a good sharing platform, but accessing and commenting on the models while in production is a strong advantage.
  • Agility: 3DaaS should be able to provide a solution covering production peaks.
  • Affordability: Each user will want to calculate their ROI based on different parameters, such as the alternative cost of producing physical prototypes, 3D modeling based on 2D (added pattern-making time), in-house software implementation etc.
  • Data integrity: Obviously one of the critical parameters in outsourcing sensitive designs. You may want to ask about the cloud security level, and any anti-leakage measures implemented.

This includes disadvantages:

  • Input material quality: 3DaaS, when based on artistic 3D visualisation software, requires visual inputs, which will impact the end result. The more input, the better. Poor or insufficient raw materials will result in lengthy production cycles.
  • Communication: Online 3DaaS is based on interactive communication between the 3D artists and the designer. The communication should not only be facilitated, but the designer must provide coherent and timely feedback.


It is recommended that operations will consider doing part of the 3D prototyping in house. Typically this will be the part of the work that is associated with production, or proof of 2D pattern.

For the part of the work that involves very fast turnaround, lead time for designers to be able to present their ideas without going through the pattern development process, is advisable to identify a 3DaaS channel which utilises “artistic” 3D visualisation process.

Smart-sourcing allows teams to enjoy a wider range of 3D applications.

Conclusions and recommendations

Almost every business aspect is being outsourced today, even delicate legal issues. And so 3D prototyping is no exception. Once the critical performance parameters are considered, 3D outsourcing can be a solution answering the needs of those who wish to make their first steps in the 3D prototyping space, all the way to operations who consider expanding 3D applications’ range or adding agility to existing in-house 3D capabilities. 3DaaS can be online or local, as long as the end 3D result and workflow fit the organisation’s needs.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight 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 our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, 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.