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When it comes to manufacturing, the fashion industry cannot deny that there is no time like the present to take positive action. Change is being made possible thanks to the rapid rise in technological advancements. We are witnessing the manufacturing industry’s overall mindset slowly move towards accommodating lower volume production of high-added value, innovative, customizable and more sustainable products. One of the significant drivers of change in this ‘new environment’ is Additive Manufacturing (AM). It is an approach that presents a technology designed to eliminate several of the constraints of manufacturing techniques based on traditional subtractive methods and introduce a radically new retail model.

As insiders take note of the changing manufacturing landscape, McKinsey predicts that additive manufacturing could have an economic impact of $550 billion annually by 2025. Also, when it comes to the global additive manufacturing market size, it was estimated at  3.1 billion in 2013, and it is now expected to grow to 21 billion by 2020. 

Why Adopt AM

The use of additive manufacturing  is nothing new. However, what is new is how the technology has matured in a way that has led to it being described as a game-changing breakthrough. As a disruptive technology, AM is recognized as a technology that is turning data into things which in turn enable things like mass-customization, material efficiency gains and supply-chain simplification. 

Challenging the foundations upon which much of traditional manufacturing understanding, practices and experience are based AM makes it possible to produce a finished, coloured, ready-to-wear net-shaped garments in a single manufacturing operation.  A far less wasteful process than the current technique and method, AM is a technology that signals a shift that could change the clothing industry worldwide. Imagine, designers would be able to produce personalized, ready-to-wear fashion within 24 hours!

Shifting focus on design and creativity, AM applied to apparel design is being easily translated into production, without the need for all too detailed manufacturing process knowledge. Reducing direct human involvement in the manufacturing process, it is worth noting that AM does not substitute mass production, it instead enables new business models such as ‘bridge manufacturing’.

AM, Bringing About A New Age in Fashion

The adoption of AM is mainly driven by the fact that the garment production generates 1.8 million tonnes of waste material. This is why it is necessary that manufacturing heads in a direction where the process itself can become affordable, sustainable and an ethical reality.  

With adoption on the uptake, AM has been put to the test in various ways. By fashion forward designers like Julia Daviy, who specializes in 3D printing. She used AM to create innovative structures. Taking advantage of the opportunities additive manufacturing offers, Daviy showed, with her first collection, how zero waste and cruelty-free clothing production can be a reality with 3D printing. 

Then there are researchers from higher education institutes like  Loughborough University who challenging the outmoded 19th-century techniques and processes by coming up with innovative technology that will allow designers to produce finished, ready-to-wear net-shaped garments directly from raw material in a single manufacturing operation.

Lastly, there are businesses like GE Additive offering collaboration opportunities. The company has extensive experience incorporating additive technologies into the production process. “We recognize the value and possibilities it brings to modern design and manufacturing challenges”, states GE Additive team. Opening up new design possibilities across a multitude of applications GE Additive has come up with some of the most advanced additive technologies that enable customers to grow products quickly and precisely using machines and 3D printers capable of achieving high levels of accuracy, even on intricate shapes and geometries, 

Earlier this year, GE Additive collaborated with fashion designer Zac Posen and Protolabs. Using cutting-edge technology and innovation,  Posen was able to create four breathtaking gowns and a headdress. The pieces were unveiled at this year’s Met Gala when worn by British model Jourdan Dunn, actresses Nina Dobrev, Katie Holmes, Julia Garner and Bollywood actress, Deepika Padukone. “I dreamt the collection, GE Additive helped engineer it, and Protolabs printed it,” said Posen.

Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde

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Category(s): Blog