E-commerce giant Amazon made headlines recently with its plans to capture 3D scans of its clients bodies for more accurate online shopping, but it is far from the only company exploring this possible application of 3D scanning technologies. For the past five or so years, an Australia-based company has been pursuing the development of 3D scanning and 3D printing systems for custom garments and e-commerce platforms.
The company in question, called Tec.Fit, has been working alongside Australian universities and research groups for years to establish a comprehensive and adaptable solution for customizing garments using digital technologies. It has also worked closely with its sister company, Tailors Mark, a custom menswear brand that has been used to test Tec.Fit’s technology in a real world setting. Tec.Fit’s solution, which comprises of a 3D scanning smartphone app, a dedicated 3D printer and an e-commerce platform, is preparing for a global launch later this year.
The idea behind Tec.Fit is that customers will be able to capture a 3D scan of their bodies from the comfort of home, which will then be transmitted to the e-commerce company they are shopping with. Using Tec.Fit’s 3D printing system, the e-commerce company will 3D print a life-size model of the customer to ensure a fully customized fit.
“Tailors Mark came up with the 3D printing solution to remove the need for the manufacturer and the customer to be in the same location and because a person’s body measurements do not tell the full story of their curves,” said Tim Allison, CEO of Tec.Fit. “Teleporting the customer to the point of manufacturing is a wonderful thing and changes the whole custom clothing sector.”
While great in theory, we did have a few questions about the practicalities of the process, including the question of what kind of 3D printer could be used to quickly and cheaply print out full-size body models. Tim Allison shed some light on the particulars when we spoke to him recently.
As he explains, the 3D printer itself was developed specifically by and for Tec.Fit, with careful attention paid to the printer’s speed and filament flow. “We are focusing on printing fast and cheaply,” he told us. “The total cost of printing a mannequin including a licensing fee will be about $15 (USD)—a significant saving compared to the costs of alterations, shipping and time.”
“Tec.Fit will help e-commerice platforms to capture the customers (end users) measurements and model, prepare the scan for printing and run the printer via our cloud platform. The 3D printer will retail for around $20,000, it will be delivered in a small box and will allow the manufacturer/clothing designer to it up and running within 30 minutes. Our clients do not need to know anything about 3D printing: it is a safe, low touch and small footprint unit.”
Based on an extrusion system, the 3D printer is reportedly capable of manufacturing full-body mannequins (except the arms), though Allison does suggest that it will be more common to print the custom mannequins in two sections (with the arms done separately) and slot all the pieces together. The large-format 3D printer will ultimately be licensed out to other companies who will manufacture and supply the system.
To keep material costs down (and for environmental reasons), the mannequins are printed from 100% non-toxic, fully recyclable PLA filament, so that companies can reuse the materials for different clients. “We are working on developing smaller recycling units. We want them to be safe, not noisy,” said Allison, adding that Tec.Fit is till working on perfecting its plastic recycling unit.
But the 3D printer is just one element of Tec.Fit’s custom garment solution. The Fit Passport, for instance, is a smartphone application focused on capturing a client’s measurements and exact 3D body model. “We have worked with a number of Australian Universities and PHD interns to create new IP allowing the capture of the 3D model from 2D images,” elaborated Allison. “The Fit Passport can be used at home and its application will be for both e-commerce clothing retailers and the 3D printing solution. We are focusing on solving the e-commerce sizing issue and customization of clothing.”
Tec.Fit’s Customizr platform, for its part, is described as “a turn-key eCommerce solution for businesses looking to offer custom clothing integrated into their offering” and features tools such as a customization engine, 3D product imagery and rendering tech, sizing tools, multilingual and multi-currency support, customer support modules and more.
“Our Customizr platform will allow customers to create custom clothing in real time with millions of variations,” said Allison. “If it is for a bespoke suit or dress, the designer can print the mannequin and create the client’s unique design without the person having to be there. Further, Customizr can itself be customized for the e-commerce’s unique requirements. A team of integration specialists will work with the client to launch their custom e-commerce offering and it will be white labelled to their brand and offering.”
“The Tec.Fit platform was built for Tailors Mark,” he continues. “With over 50k hours of development and 5 years of real world application and learning. It is a sophisticated platform with powerful tools. From the user UX/UI through to logistics and the manufacture order tracking processes. Through the use of APIs, it can work in conjunction with other platforms the client may already be using.”
Finally, when asked about what it means to Tec.Fit that retail giants such as Amazon have expressed interest in using 3D body scanning technologies, Allison said: “We would look to work with or compliment what Amazon ends up offering. Custom clothing isn’t exclusive to fashion, it is required across many sectors, including Sportswear, Military, Uniforms, Medical and so on. Curvature is far more complex than just measurement.”
“In time, we believe there will be opportunities for mass market customization of all clothing, but there will always be a need for creative, unique and complex design which could use a wide variety of different materials. There is no one individual solution which will deliver all needs and Tec.Fit will continue to develop and push the boundaries in technology improvements for all custom clothing manufacturer and e-commerce.”
With the retail market making gradual moves towards mass customization, 3D technologies such as scanning and printing will definitely have an important role to play. Businesses interested in learning more about Tec.Fit’s specific vision for custom e-commerce platforms can reach out to the company via its website.