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Trending: 3D Tech Poised to Revolutionize Garment Industry

Image credit: HP Inc.

While alternative materials have largely been dominating the discussion around the future of fashion, startups and industry heavy hitters are like are now looking to 3D-printing technology to revolutionize the apparel market.

Earlier this week, HP Inc. introduced the FitStation powered by HP, a new platform that will deliver custom-fitted and individualized footwear through 3D scanning, dynamic gait analysis and manufacturing technologies.

FitStation captures 3D scans of the foot, foot pressure measurements and gait analysis to create a unique digital profile of each foot. It is the world’s first end-to-end solution that provides individual off-the-shelf shoe and insole recommendations, 3D insoles and individualized custom footwear. The system will use HP Multi Jet Fusion printing technology to manufacture a 3D printed insole.

“FitStation is a truly disruptive platform that will improve people’s lives and change the way people purchase footwear and shoe insoles,” said Louis Kim, Global Head of Immersive Computing, Personal Systems at HP Inc. “We are reinventing the footwear shopping experience, bringing a level of customization and personalization never before seen. We are stitching HP’s capabilities in 3D scanning and 3D printing to bring this Blended Reality vision to life and are working with leading partners within the footwear industry to develop this revolutionary platform.”

Superfeet, a leader in innovative, over-the-counter insoles, will be one of the first to pilot HP Inc.’s new platform in select stores across its 4,000 retail locations. Steitz Secura, a specialist in safety shoes, will also deploy FitStation as a way to focus on comfort, preventative health and safety.

“For 40 years, we have set the standard for shape and fit. Until today, the technology to deliver a 3D printed insole that meets Superfeet’s exacting standards didn’t exist,” said Eric Hayes, Chief Marketing Officer at Superfeet. “Our new solution allows us to create the most individualized shape and fit on the planet.”

“This footwear innovation campaign moves us to the technological forefront of the industry,” added Michael Huth, CEO of Steitz Secura. “The concept of customized safety shoes is a true world innovation and will be the benchmark for the future.”

Meanwhile, Belgian startup w.r.yuma — pronounced “We are Yuma” — has set its sights on changing the sunglasses game with the launch of the first 3D-printed sunglasses made out of recycled plastic, including car dashboards, fridges and soda bottles.

All of the plastic for the production of the sunnies come from the Netherlands and the Flemish region of Belgium. The post-consumer waste is fed into the 3D printer, melted to form thin plastic wire and layered together to construct the frames. Individual components are then assembled by hand and equipped with Italian-made Mazzuchelli lenses.

The company — which is running a Kickstarter campaign until October 6, 2017 — even goes a step further by encouraging consumers to return at end-of-life or end-of-wear to be used as raw materials to generate new glasses.

The startup is currently offering five different designs in three colors, which are expected to ship early next year.

“We’re not going to solve the plastic waste problem by just taking this plastic and putting it in sunglasses, but it’s a first step … I want to touch a lot of people with that message,” said Sebastiaan de Neubourg, Founder of w.r.yuma.

Back in the US, Ministry of Supply is a utilizing 3D printing to take their product portfolio to the next level. The brand is focusing on using the technology to make improvements to its line of workwear staples both in terms of comfort and environmental impacts.

According to the brand, 3D printing allows them to design clothing tailored specifically to a person’s unique physical features, meaning no restrictions on movement or garments losing their shape. Garments are engineered with shape and articulation based on a person’s joints and the strain that they put on their clothes throughout the day. What’s more, the clothing is engineered to last longer.

Traditional garments are most vulnerable to wear at their weakest points — the seams. 3D printing allows Ministry of Supply to create seamless pieces since the shape is programmed in, not cut and sewn. The result is a durable garment that’s built to last.

On the sustainability side, the process helps cut back on waste and overproduction, thereby creating a better clothing cycle. Traditional cut-and-sew production typically leaves about 35 percent of fabric on the cutting room floor, but with 3D printing no scraps are created.

The process also has the potential to revolutionize traditional fashion supply chains by shifting from a mass production model to making clothing to order, ultimately cutting back on waste early in the clothing cycle. Keeping production close also opens up new opportunities for innovation, such as rapid prototyping and personalized designs.

Ministry of Supply’s 3D Print Knits are already available for purchase online and include blazers and merino wool sweaters. The company also offers custom 3D printing in their Boston store, where customers can create their own blazers for $345.

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