3D Virtual Sampling -Expectations vs. Reality


April 2, 2019


What is 3D Virtual sampling?

3D Virtual sampling and prototyping is the new way to explore design concepts and variations before the actual production. 3D technology helps designers and technical designers see, validate and refine the product before moving to the actual physical prototyping and manufacturing. For many industries this the norm. Apparel industry is still in the process of adaptation and implementation.


3D Virtual Sampling for Apparel

There are many sophisticated 3D CAD software options for apparel to perform 3D virtual sampling. They are all good, and the level of reaping the benefits will depend on the user’s point of view. Designers will use the software differently than technical designers or manufacturers. Designing, product development, sampling and production of a clothing line is exhausting and time-consuming process. Add to the mixture handling multiple seasons and your head will spin.

The most common technologies, adopted in the Apparel Industry are Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Excel and many PDM and PLM systems. That is about it. Larger companies have been using 3D virtual prototyping for designing and clothing development for a while. They do have an advantage in available resources and manpower. For smaller apparel companies, with limited budgets, it is still a work in progress.

3D virtual sampling opens the door to a new era of apparel development and manufacturing process. Process that is more efficient, streamlined and less time consuming.

Imagine replacing manual tasks with digital assets (designing, sampling and pattern making) with the opportunity to eliminate communication errors among involved parties (design, technical, production, vendors). Still, there is a resistance to adopt 3D technology. (Addressing Resistance to 3D Virtual Prototyping in Apparel Design and Product Development) .

3D virtual sampling for Designers

3D fit technology allows designers to create and simulate realistic garment look on the digital fit model and reduce the wait time to see and change design or stylistic details.

In reality, to do a simulation, the designer needs to get digital pattern or block pattern from a vendor (usually DXF or other suitable format compatible with the software). In some cases, digital patterns are not exactly accurate in a fit or styling or files would have additional pieces not needed for simulation (i.e. linings, facings etc). If pattern pieces are not properly labeled, it will bring additional frustration (and time) to sort out pieces required to prepare the file for simulation.

Let’s assume that all goes well. 3D image looks great. All details are exactly as imagined. In most cases, the factory cannot use the same digital pattern to make the actual sample. Factories will have to create development pattern to make the fit sample corresponding in fit to 3D image. To take the full advantage of 3D designing, simulation and fit sampling one must know how to use the software.

A major obstacle for the entire fashion industry is education. Design schools are incorporating 3D virtual design into their curricula slowly and not placing much importance on it…Insufficient training in academia means that many designers will have to learn 3D design on the job…Designers also face a learning curve, having to design digitally when they are already skilled at designing by hand. The benefits of digital design become more evident down the line and over time. For example, manufacturers produce garments that are more aligned with designers’ visions and designers gain speed and precision once they’re accustomed to using digital design software.”

(Albert Chan;Deep Dive:3D Design Technology Disrupts the Fashion Supply Chain - Coresight Research )

The actual implementation of 3D Virtual prototyping is much more complex than assumed.

3D Virtual Sampling for Technical Designers and Production

Shifting to 3D Virtual sampling offers many benefits for technical designers and production. Lengthy fit sampling time could be significantly reduced. Integration of 2D to 3D (2D pattern simulation on 3D avatar) allows technical designers to check the pattern for fit and balance before approving the style for production. With 3D simulation they can identify and correct fit errors digitally instead of going through many fit samples.

For technical and production departments 3D virtual sampling process creates the opportunity to reduce the work load and make pre-production approval process more efficient.

In reality, technical designers and production teams have a demanding day to day schedule. It is difficult to plan additional hours, dedicated to learning and incorporating 3D technology into the current workload, especially if the manpower is limited.

The fast-pace of the fashion calendar coupled with the demand for shorter lead times makes it difficult to set aside time to incorporate new technology. The work hours of those involved in the product development process are spent chasing samples, attending multiple fit sessions for numerous styles, and constantly updating at sketches and tech packs…Although many in the industry have come to understand that 3D can drastically change the way they work, the current state of the product development process makes it difficult for them to dedicate even a fraction of their work hours to learning and applying 3D”. ( Daniel Seo, Addressing Resistance to 3D Virtual Prototyping in Apparel Design and Product Development)


The solutions to the current adoption problem:

-Changing the mind set and full understanding of the overall long term benefits of 3D virtual sampling.

-Dedicate few designers and technical designers who are open to learn and incorporate technology into their existing workflow and pilot few styles from product development to final approved production sample. Communication and coordination of digital assets with vendors is the crucial part of the process.

-The key is to start small and manageable pilot program that can easily pivot and adopt if faced with difficulties. Hands on learning experience is valuable and helpful when planning and deploying the next step for the 3D technology implementation within the organization.

-For smaller fashion brands, there are many pattern making services offering 3D virtual prototyping solution to help with clothing product development and production.

General benefits of 3D virtual prototyping:

-Analyzing the process before creating the product

-Reducing the time to develop clothing line

-Eliminate the need to create physical clothing prototype

-Increase the quality of the design

-Lower the cost for clothing development

-Maximize overall product development efficiency

-Reduce the time in all production stages

-Easy design and fit refinement

-Test of the fit and design before making physical samples

-Many apparel companies are searching for technology-based solutions to innovate and update product development and production process. Desire and need for change is there. It’s been there for years. We are witnessing transformation.

-Implementation of 3D virtual prototyping is gaining traction, but adoption is still facing a huge resistance among people who need it the most.  

-Although, 3D designing and prototyping is still a novel idea among a majority of apparel brands and manufacturers, the innovative and more efficient design and manufacturing process will become essential to clothing retail survival under the ever-demanding consumer’s pressure for immediacy of the new looks.

Share your thoughts and experiences! We would love to hear from you.


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