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Digital Product Development

Margo Anderson
min read •
Published on
February 21, 2020

We’ve all heard about sustainable fashion and the digital transformation of the apparel industry, but why are these topics important and how do they relate to 3D product development? What is involved in setting up a 3D product development pipeline for your brand? And how can we help?

Let’s take it back for a minute. In the past, and inside most brands to this day, the product development process has been fairly manual and physical. Concept designs are approved, physical samples/prototypes are produced, and then these prototypes are sent by plane around the globe to get final approvals before new products make it onto the shelves, in stores or online. As you can imagine this process takes time and materials are wasted in the process, especially if physical samples aren’t ready and need to be revised or reprinted.

Enter digital product development: the process of creating a digital sample by building designs in 3D CAD software and outputting photo-realistic image renders of a new product.

Current State

For the most part, digital product development in the apparel industry is in the early adopter phase. Most companies are experimenting with various CAD applications and are quickly learning that the process is not easily repeatable or predictable, and still suffers from a lot of manual effort.

The legwork required to setup a 3D pipeline is significant. From hiring and building out a specialized IT team, to selecting and purchasing software licenses, determining data standards, converting between multiple applications and data formats, learning how to render high quality images, automating output, removing manual effort, writing custom software, and making images look good on top of all of that — it’s a difficult and lengthy process overall. And it’s even harder when you try to scale up for production.

So why adopt 3D for product development?

Advantages of Going 3D

Digital is the way of the future. The world’s largest brands have been investing millions of dollars in fashion technology transformation for the past decade, and as it is with all technological advances, it’s only a matter of time before 3D product development becomes the norm and is accessible to all.

The advantages of adopting 3D are numerous:

  • It can accelerate time to market.
  • It reduces physical sampling waste in time, materials, and cost.
  • It accelerates decision making via digital collaboration tools.
  • It enables market validation before manufacturing.
  • And it is an enabler in building “Design to Sell” sales pipelines.

Achieving consistent quality, repeatability, and predictability is growing in importance, however, it’s no easy feat as it requires a dedicated effort, costly investment (software, IT teams, custom code etc), and expert knowledge from seasoned computer graphics experts.

Image for post
Rendered with FNX

What is FNX?

Created by a passionate team of developers & computer graphics experts from Vancouver, BC, Phoenix (FNX) is a visualization platform that enables apparel brands to remove the technical barriers of adopting 3D, faster and more efficiently than previously possible. Taking the lessons we’ve learned from over 2 decades of experience working in the film and animation industry, we have learned how to expertly scale the largest 3D production pipelines in the world.

Based on the elastic nature of the media industry, film and animation companies can scale teams and output by orders of magnitude in a few months, requiring bigger teams, more infrastructure, software, training, support staff etc. We’ve seen it happen numerous times, and we’ve done it ourselves at companies like Technicolor, Dreamworks, and Electronic Arts, among others. We’ve also seen many companies try and fail at scaling so quickly for the simple fact that it’s not an easy undertaking. Yet, that’s the thing about trying and failing. There are always lessons to be learned and improvements to be made to ensure mistakes don’t happen next time.

With that said, we have taken decades of these learnings and have applied them to the FNX platform. The secret to our success is automation and the removal of manual effort wherever possible, building custom tools along the way to increase efficiencies and productivity.

Film Industry Learnings

Taking the lessons from the film industry, here’s how we’re applying it:

  • We know that automation works so we’re making it accessible to product developers in the form of plugins for the most commonly used tools, Browzwear’s Vstitcher and Clo3d.
  • We’re bringing high quality film standards & cinematic magic (techniques used in blockbuster films and games) to the digital product development rendering process.
  • We’re speeding up the development process & creating visual consistency.
  • By removing the grunt work, we’re reducing material waste and enabling digital adoption.

Try it — Adopt 3D

So much of the upfront cost, the effort of figuring out standards, teams, and tooling can be saved by using the FNX platform. We know that we won’t solve every 3D challenge that exists, but we’re focused on solving the upfront challenges of adopting 3D first, and in time, we’ll begin looking at deeper challenges.

Did we mention that we’re also software agnostic? Currently supporting Browzwear, CLO 3D, 3DSMAX, Blender, and BeProduct’s PLM, we’re built for integration. Save yourself the time and headache of setting up a 3D pipeline and let us do it for you.


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