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The Call for High Quality 3D Technology


In their first guest post for WhichPLM, Figure Forms, based in Cape Town, South Africa share the benefits that fitting mannequins and high-quality 3D avatars can bring to brands and retailers in the fashion industry. Figure Forms is a leading manufacturer of professional dress forms and industrial fit mannequins.

With companies increasingly adopting 2D CAD and 3D apparel simulation systems to streamline their design and product development processes and decrease the time to market for new fashions, technology providers are responding to the call for high quality 3D avatars that may be integrated into these advanced systems.

Avatar screenshot of a ladies size 10 © Figure Forms & Browzwear (https://browzwear.com/)

Most 3D systems rely on 3 main components: the 2D pattern, the Body (avatar) on which the virtual garment is simulated, and material/textile properties that are applied to the virtual garment pieces.

Although the different 3D software systems include parametric avatars in the software, which can be adapted in the system and a user can input their own measurement specifications, in many cases the user is not able to input all the points of measurement that may be essential for their needs and technical requirements. As such they are not able to achieve the exact body shape they need, something that is crucial for fit standards. In some cases, the measurement methodology of the parametric avatar is not the same as the anthropometric methodology of how (and where) a body measurement is taken – such as on a real human or on a technical fit mannequin. For example, is it consistent with any International Standards methodologies (such as ISO 8559-1)? Does the measurement follow the body contour exactly? Is it taken horizontal to the ground or in a sloped plane? Or does the measurement method allow for measuring certain areas along the body contour but in other areas need to bridge the gap between high points either side of a depression on the body. Examples of this could be taking the bust measurement on women, where the standard measurement method allows for the tape measure to bridge the space of the cleavage and not follow the body contour throughout.

Although this may not be critical for creating a simulation for visualization purposes, this is crucial when it comes to applying the 3D simulations for sizing and more importantly fit, as the pattern construction is reliant on the established standards of normal body measurement methods, and the body measurement translates into the specifications required on a garment pattern.

Avatar screenshots of an 18 month infant ©FigureForms

Most well established apparel retailers and brands work to some form of standard in order to achieve consistency in their sizing, fit and garment quality assurance processes. Most importantly, these standards are used throughout the garment development and production process.

The fundamental purpose of a fitting mannequin is to define the brand fit and specifications. The mannequin does not change shape or measurements from day to day or month to month, allowing a company to more accurately define their sizing and fit standards into one form that does not change over time, and is available 24/7! More importantly, the mannequin creates a communication tool and a means to achieve consistency across the supply chain – from design and product development, to sampling and fit approval. Vendors like to be able to work on the prescribed fit standard of a retailer as this allows them to achieve better ratings, improved consistency, faster approval times, fewer samples and lower costs …not to mention the positive impact this has for sustainability and less waste!

Not surprisingly, these principles in the physical/manual world need to be carried across into the virtual world, and most retailers and brands implementing 3D technology will need to transfer a number of their physical and manual systems into the virtual environment.

3D simulation systems are best implemented when the virtual avatars match and are used in conjunction with your brand fit standard and your brand fit forms (mannequin) – both are critical in driving a better product. (Not only in measurements, but consistency in posture and body shape distribution). This will help ensure consistency across the supply chain from design and product development to production and quality assurance processes. Successful implementation of avatars in various softwares will increase the speed of design-to-market. Many issues can be corrected and adjusted virtually before any physical samples are sewn, leading to greater savings for manufacturers and retailers alike.

Avatar range from newborn to a size XXL man © Figure Forms

While body scans may also be directly incorporated into 3D visualization software in order to create fitting avatars (e.g. in the case of replicating a house model), depending on the type of scanner used and the quality (density) of the scan data, it’s not always possible to have the desired accuracy, symmetry or aesthetic appeal (especially if the 3D simulations are to be used for marketing and presentation purposes). In addition to this, an actual scan may have other anomalies like posture and limb asymmetry.

Good solutions will develop virtual avatars that are consistent with physical fit mannequins and match them perfectly in measurement specifications, posture and body shape. Their 3D avatars should be rigorously measured in a CAD program to ensure that they match the physical mannequin. Many can also be enhanced with additional features such as a head, hands, and feet that may not necessarily be found on the physical forms.

Custom avatars can be developed, which enable retailers and brands to adapt even faster, to be able to conduct virtual trials for new markets, body shapes and sizes before developing any physical forms and processes, as well as virtual fit on those in-between sizes that normally could not be done before. This capability can naturally link with Custom Development services when required to develop physical fitting forms. By utilising 3D technology (3D printing) in the development of physical prototypes, project times can also been drastically reduced. A high degree of accuracy in symmetry and measurements is now achievable on finished mannequins, which in the past was not possible due to manual, hand-sculpting methods.

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.