Why has 3D Fabric Become the Key to Success for Apparel Brands and Designers in 2021?

As the fashion industry moves more towards digital product creation strategies, digital materials have quickly become one of the most in-demand resources for brands and designers, especially 3D fabric.


What used to be a sequence of analogue processes such as design visualization, prototyping, sampling, and fitting are now going digital throughout the fashion industry. This critical design and development work continues to shift in a way that speeds up processes in order to keep up with fast-changing market demands. These changes allow brands to meet trends as they develop, providing a way to deliver products to market at a faster pace. It can also be paired with modern e-commerce trends, online fashion shows, and even AR technologies to effectively showcase new products.

Bottlenecks in Adopting a 3D-Centric Strategy for Brands and Designers

Aside from modern digital-native companies, most apparel and retail brands were not created in a way that facilitates digital product creation. This means these brands need to adopt new working methods in order to profit from the transition toward digital sales.

After all, designing fashion products in 3D is simply a different process than sketching the same products in 2D. It requires a completely different skill set that most brands do not have in-house and therefore must either contract out the work or hire new employees with these skill sets. Whether these companies seek external help or bring new skills in-house, additional expenses are incurred.

Thankfully, new technology can bring about a solution. These new technologies could prove to be hugely valuable to companies experiencing difficulties digitizing their products at scale.

What Causes These Bottlenecks?

So, what causes the bottlenecks these companies are facing when trying to adopt a 3D-Centric strategy? Simply put, material digitization is a complicated process. It can be expensive and time-consuming. Now let’s dig into these factors in more detail.


First, we’ll talk about the expenses of material digitization. The expenses come from two main components, the cost of equipment and the cost of labor. For equipment, a professional scanner for digitizing materials is expensive, easily priced at well over $15,000. This equipment also requires maintenance further increasing these costs.

On top of the cost of the equipment, operating a professional scanner for digitizing materials is a laborious task that requires specialized skills. Once those skills are involved, the cost of hiring employees or contracting out that work quickly increases. The laborious aspect of operating a professional scanner for digitizing materials further increases these costs as these specialists are typically paid on an hourly or salaried basis.

Second, we’ll talk about the time-consuming aspect of material digitization. While we just discussed how operating a professional scanner is laborious, here we’ll discuss how implementing these processes is time-consuming. As mentioned, material digitization requires specialist skills. Finding effective specialists to hire or contract that fit your company culture takes time. Alternatively, some companies seek out the help of a third party to scan fabric swatches sent to them. However, this also becomes time-consuming and expensive as mailing out the fabric swatches to the scanning company then waiting for them to scan the fabric quickly turns into weeks or even months depending on both companies’ locations.

So, from the time a company decides they want to pursue a 3D-centric strategy, it cannot immediately take action. They need to find new employees to hire or a high-quality contractor to perform the work, potentially develop new e-commerce webpages, and reshape existing workflows. Each of these tasks is time-consuming in its own right, preventing a company from immediately transitioning. Scaling these tasks is also an issue as most companies offer a wide range of different types of fabric that’s constantly shifting. So, effectively scaling 3D fabric creation becomes a serious bottleneck. To take the steps towards adopting a 3D-centric strategy, companies need to spend months planning out each step and process.

Both the expenses and the time it takes to actually implement 3D fabric are significant bottlenecks to adopting a 3D-centric strategy for apparel and retail brands.

How Can Brands Leverage 3D Fabric?

The Frontier team recently developed a radically different approach for generating normal maps by enabling 3D rendering of textiles using a single 2D image scan. This circumvents the need for multiple captures and lighting conditions normally required for effectively digitizing materials. Instead of multiple captures, Frontier’s new development, called 3D Fabric Creator, uses AI to convert color maps to normal maps with hue-based color transformation preprocessing. The normal map created by using AI matches the quality of dedicated flatbed scanning hardware but only requires a single flat photograph. It can achieve this quality in a matter of minutes instead of hours or even days.

On top of only requiring a single flat photograph, Frontier’s method further reduces the labor of digitizing materials by not requiring any parameter turning. This enables automated textile digitization by leveraging the power of AI. With 3D Fabric Creator, designers can streamline their workflow and obtain realistic 3D fabric layers almost immediately. You can now turn digital material files into U3M files with just one click.

Currently, Frontier is the largest 3D fabric material platform in the world. It features more than 20,000 realistic digital fabrics and that number keeps growing. With its proprietary technology, fabric suppliers can easily digitize their fabric inventory with a single multi-functional scanner then quickly turn it into 3D fabric. Designers can also use this massive library to plan collections, create mood boards, and produce entirely new garment designs with ease. They can finally say goodbye to waiting for fabric samples to be physically delivered.

With Frontier’s 3D Fabric Creator, the bottlenecks associated with adopting a 3D-centric strategy for apparel and retail brands will become a challenge of the past. Through its innovative AI technology, both the cost and time of material digitization are no longer an issue for brands looking to move into digital sales of their products. Now is the perfect time to start leveraging the power of 3D digitization with the help of Frontier’s 3D Fabric Creator.

Leverage the Power of 3D Fabric with Frontier’s 3D Fabric Creator


For brands, 3D Fabric Creator translates into a ready source of high-quality digital materials at scale. The digital materials created with 3D Fabric Creator meet quality requirements without the expenses and difficulties typically associated with 3D digitization. For suppliers, Frontier opens the door to digitizing their entire selection of materials at source. It does not demand any skilled supervision or time-consuming capture techniques resulting in a streamlined process without any sacrifices to quality.

If you want to learn more about Frontier, you can schedule a demo with us, or follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn. Feel free to drop us a message to learn more about the system.