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Custom Product Configurators and 3D Printing in the Fashion industry

October 28, 2014

Custom-fitted or, as they say, tailored suit or a dress to buy online? We all have heard stories of companies offering to take your measurements via their websites (Vastrm.com) or at your home (Trumaker) with help of an outfitter or, more recently, offering to take a 3D scan of you so that their product can be custom-fitted to the shape of your body (startups in this area abound, like Tailor Truck).

Now that all the competitive sharks are in play and the battle for premium-type sales of tailored clothing to consumers is heating up, what is the nearest future in this space? Let’s look beyond the 360-degree virtual fitting rooms and custom size questionnaires online that are becoming a staple functionality for an online store.

We recently talked with several leading fashion industry technology consultants at the Inside 3D Printing Show and got some very interesting insights that go along with our own observations of trends in the online fashion space.

Shoes is one vertical where most of the top manufacturers are still operating in stealth mode and are working on their online applications to fully customize in 3D print your shoes. Some have already launched the custom shoes design studios – Adidas Mi and NIKEiD are best examples to explore. However, as customers can design their own shoes, one important aspect of it has remained unchanged – a standard sizing chart; most of world-known shoe brands are working on custom-fitting their shoes.

Building a model of a unique shape of your feet is one area that is being addressed by quite a few startups, such as ReplicaLabs with their Rendor application, about to be released in December 2014. A smartphone is seen as a universal device to take pictures of a foot from various angles. You will take these photos, upload them to your account at Rendor that then will processes data and feeds the resulting 3D mesh to a shoe manufacturer. A few days later, you receive your very own custom-fitted pair of shoes. Custom-fitted clothing items such as women’s bras are another category that is booming with potentially interesting technology solutions. At PulsarFour, we are working on integrating such applications into the back-end of our Magento-based online stores to enable our clients to fully utilize the technology of the future.

Will 3D eventually make it into the fashion world? Well, some verticals are more bound to see commercialization of 3D printing than others. Most certainly, shoe manufacturing represents a vertical that is surely moving in that direction. Are we there yet? No. And the biggest impediment to progress are the materials. It is hard to imagine a pure plastic printed pair of shoes to be bought by a demanding consumer today. Today such a product will not be much more than a nice display item with a 3D-printed sole and a heel that looks like a carved work of art, but is hardly fit to be worn, even by fashionistas. But new materials are gradually making it to the market and we surely will see commercialization of 3D-printed custom-fitted shoes very soon.
Other fashion-driven product types that are definitely bound to be 3D-printed and personalized? They are numerous: skateboards, surfboards, bikes and their parts, helmets, glasses, headwear and accessories. All of these types of products, when 3D printed, would strongly compliment a larger fashion brand infrastructure and its product range.

What will become of known world fashion brands in the 3D 100% custom personalized product world? Most likely, we will see the world where designers would rule brands, the supply chain would slowly die out, and massive number of local print farms will be rolled out at points of purchase. We are at the dawn of the era of consumers writing their own stores for brands using their imagination, chosen colors and forms to shape their personal comfort.
How should you, an aspiring online retailer, make a first step towards personalization and customization of your products online?

At PulsarFour, we observe more and more of our clients implementing custom products configurators, where users can not only select various product attributes and accessories, but also can upload their own artwork or even their own product 3D models to be then printed by the retailer. Seemingly a simple task, programming such a configurator within an ecommerce platform includes the embedding of a complex matrix of product component attributes, dimensions and compatibility options. It also calls for the uploaded artwork files automated analysis and quality check in order to eliminate a human review element to fully automate order submission and processing.

3D modelling and printing of clothes, shoes, various household goods and houses themselves, printing food – sometimes we feel that we read a sci-fi novel when we talk to our partners and customers that implement such technologies today. Do not stay behind, become a trailblazer riding the wave of the future, and start from allowing your buyers to customize their experience with your brand and your products.

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