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What’s Next in 3D Design?

Companies often think of 3D digital design tools as only that: design tools. But that is a mistake. With growing technology and cloud-based systems, 3D design tools have evolved to also save costs, increase efficiency, streamline processes, boost collaboration, drive sustainability and more. In short, to do more with less.

For a company to appreciate what virtual 3D design brings to the table, however, one needs to view the whole picture holistically.

“New 3D design tools aren’t just about building a better mousetrap for designers—they require overhauling the entire digital product creation (DPC) process,” said Andre Wolper, founder and CEO of Embodee, and the Orchids by Embodee 3D collaborative web platform. “This can’t be achieved from a given silo but must be backed by senior management for it to happen.”

Fashion design is 24/7, with global teams often spanning cities, countries, continents and time zones. Modern design, manufacturing, and distribution often occur in different places simultaneously, and every minute counts. Implementing web-based technology fosters better collaboration and improves communication and engagement.

“Embodee’s Orchids web platform allows anyone from around the world to visually brainstorm, suggest changes and add comments. And that’s not just an incremental change,” said Wolper. “It fundamentally alters the way apparel comes to market. Products evolve at light speed, drastically cutting production time and allowing anyone to contribute.”

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Such increased engagement between suppliers and buyers also means reduced need for physical samples. Users can visualize the latest iterations of products in 3D, and then gather, brainstorm, present, communicate and collaborate on them—before they’re sent for sampling.

Fear of process change

If 3D design is so beneficial, why aren’t more people using it? Often, it’s a fear of process change and a lack of adaptation from employees.

“People are used to working the traditional way, and it’s difficult to make sweeping organizational transitions due to resource requirements and the need for evolution of people’s skills,” said Wolper. Even so, sustainability concerns and the need to cut sample waste are driving the discussion over the need to “touch and feel everything.”

Wolper cites Norlanka, a global fashion design manufacturer, who achieved a range of major benefits from the Orchids platform in creating and merchandising products in 3D. The company’s “game-changing” results included: cutting physical samples seven-fold; creating 250 variants in two days instead of 10 and cutting development time; increasing productivity five-fold in the review and revisions process; and increasing capacity by allowing non 3D experts to change colors, prints, and graphics.

Intimidation of technology can be another barrier, and the interface must be easy to use and integrate with existing PLM or e-commerce tools. The ability to use 3D tools without 3D experience is key, especially as some desktop apps require specialized skills and/or software at a time when skilled 3D experts aren’t always in large supply.

Such modern tools are also a step up from the traditional interaction between 2D graphic designers and 3D apparel designers. “In the traditional system, 2D creates a graphic or a print, tosses the file over the net, and waits while 3D puts it in place. Then the ball bounces back to 2D, who makes notes on placement and scale, and kicks it back over to 3D. And so on and so on until the design’s ready to be presented to the whole team. It’s a big waste of time,” said Wolper.

Orchids lets organizations get more done, in less time. For example:

Ideate: Create and share digital canvas Spaces. With Orchids, teams can collect inspirations, sketches, photos and related files to showcase, share and take input on ideas for new collections. Having the latest 3D product iteration as you build toward collections is a game change for planning and communication. 

Publish: Upload 3D products into Orchids to bring them to life online. Orchids makes 3D models developed by technical designers accessible to anyone. You can optimize them with the click of a button, and publish them anywhere—B2B sales, e-commerce, online ads, social media, the metaverse, etc. If a company needs a cornucopia of design variants, the platform offers creation tools to do that with ease.

CoCreate: Easily, collaboratively and rapidly, online. The entire team anywhere can view, comment and help evolve all products in 3D, without specialized 3D expertise. Apparel designers, print designers, product managers, merchandisers and sales teams get new products to the customer faster and better. Buyers can interact in the same manner by helping make decisions and speed products to market—without relying on physical samples.

While 3D creation isn’t brand new, it’s far from reaching its peak, with approximately 10 percent adoption. However, Wolper feels we’re at an exciting juncture, with apparel ready to follow the 3D lead of other industries.

“The entire supply chain is now embracing 3D and wants to drive it to a greater percentage of products designed digitally,” he said. “In the next few years, 3D adoption will see a fairly linear progression, with 3D upskilling requirements dropping as Orchids and similar easy-to-use platforms get adopted. Time, resource, and efficiency pressures are so high in the supply chain that those who leverage the latest technologies will pull ahead.”

To learn how Orchids by Embodee can help your company become more productive and resilient, click here.