At the eleventh edition of Techtextil North America, held in Atlanta, Ga. Tuesday, automation was the clear focus for tomorrow’s technology.
In an area dedicated to showcasing the latest in cutting-edge technologies transforming the textile industry, called the “Cool Zone,” companies displayed 3D body scanning technology, an automated styling platform and a robotic sewing machine that needs almost no human help.
The aptly named Bodee Scanner is a 3D body scanner for apparel, health and fitness. So far, the company’s main focus has been on creating custom clothing for consumers.
The technology integrates with patterns from clothiers and does micro grading, creating up to 500 sizes. From there, once a customer’s measurements have been scanned, Bodee Scanner finds the existing stored size closest to that user’s measurements, and makes any slight adjustments to get the garment to be a perfect fit.
Based on studies the company conducted, Bodee Scanner was found to be 76 percent more precise in determining important garment measurements when compared to five expert tailors.
“Body scanning makes a lot of strides in the direction of becoming a disrupting technology,” according to Jason Delevan, vice president of Styku, the company behind Bodee Scanner.
According to iStyling, a platform for automated styling, technology is making fashion fun again.
With iStyling, consumers will be able to walk into a retail location, have their measurements taken by an on-site 3D body scanner, and then “try on” products using iStyling’s app.
The platform won’t officially launch for the next couple of months, but retailers who incorporate the technology would be able to choose what products–whether garments or accessories–they want shoppers to have access to, and iStyling will enter the items as data.
Doug Adams, who does business development for TC2, the company behind iStyling, said data entry will cost brands $10 per garment. Garments are uploaded in 3D with all size and fit elements incorporated.
Once a brand’s products are entered and available, a customer could download the iStyling app, upload their own 3D avatar and select garments from the retailer that they would like to try. The app then places the clothes on the user’s figure and they can see just how the item would look and fit based on real measurements.
“This is going to grow exponentially here pretty soon,” Adams said.
SoftWear, an Atlanta-based startup is working to become the first supplier of fully automated production lines with robotic cutting and sewing for garments.
The company has a patent on technology that allows the robot sewer to keep track of where the fabric is by using thread counts as a sort of coordinate, which enables it to put stitches in the correct place and prevent the fabric from bunching or shifting.
Currently, the machine is only able to sew straight lines, but Clark foresees full garments being sewn with little to no human involvement in the very near future.
“Our hope is within 18 months to two years, we’ll have something where we can produce a product, the fabric goes in one end and clothing pops out,” Clark said. The first garment successfully produced on the machine may not be as complicated as a pair of jeans just yet, but it could be a T-shirt, he added. “It’s like space age in the textile industry.”
One of the major issues for brands and retailers today is transportation and cutting down on lead times as more and more companies strive to keep up with fast fashion. Automating cutting and sewing, Clark said, could mean that brands bring production back to the U.S. using smaller workshops, and not have to wait three to four months for goods to come in from China, for example.
“There’s a lot of really good reasons to do this,” he said.