3D vs PLM - Is our industry ready for 3D?

Is our industry ready for 3D? Considering most of us are looking for the next best thing and we are churning and burning out new designs, styles, and ideas.
Can 3D assist in doing all of this faster?
I know it’s supposed to reduce samples and use the digital assets in marketing and so on but is it going to help capture all of the data, BOM info, construction info, and all of the other details that need to be shared with the factories?
What do you think?


You should check out some of the 3D programs that are available. Each one has various capabilities, so it will depend on which software you choose, and how you (or your employer) intends to use it. Is it a development tool? Is it a product management tool? is it a sales and marketing tool? Will it interface with other PLM or 2D/3D manufacturing programs? A file may have all the info you need, it is just formatted differently and may not look like the traditional tech pack you are used to. Companies may use more than one software to meet their needs, and new features are being developed all the time. Want to do something that isn’t featured yet? Wish-list it, and sooner rather than later there will be a tool, trick, or work-around for it. The industry is experiencing a lot of growing pains right now, with a big skills gap between those who know how to make real garments and those who can create “virtual 3D garments”. And even that process has changed- sketches that used to be done by hand and then in Illustrator are now done directly into 3D programs, patterns are done in 2D or 3D instead of draped on a form & then cut out of paper etc. The craftmanship & skills that were valued are being replaced by sophisticated software. 3D is here and if you don’t get with it you will get pushed aside in favor of those who can use the software, whether or not they understand design, construction, patterns or garment manufacturing,


All 3D images have construction, fabric/trim, measurement, stitching, etc. details within it. Different platform integrate with different PLM systems, but the end result is a tech pkg for a factory to make a physical sample, including the 2D pattern pieces. There is no reason to go from pencil to AI to Accumark to factory to sewing machine and back to the designer for approval anymore. All of the design tweaking can be done in 3D and only one physical sample should be needed for approval.

And think of what designers can do with all of this extra time? Go out, be inspired, visit museums, go on hikes. This isn’t to replace design, but to enhance.


Yes, I think knowing software such as Tukatech, Optitex, CLO are the future. I have been a designer for over 25 years and am now learning these programs. What some of these programs can do is amazing. The amount of time (and waste!) that goes into getting sampling done, the. going through 1st fittings, second fittings, etc., can all be bypassed with these programs.

The trick is to get some of the manufacturers become more open to change. I am currently freelancing and I am dealing with one client who is having everything made overseas, and I have had to save down all of my Adobe Illustrator files as the factory can only work with CS6 files!! (I think we are at CS22??)…

As things start to open up more as more people are vaccinated, I keep hearing from people who want things to go back to what it was before, back to normal…my answer to that is no! For more reasons than one, but the ones that pertain to our industry, we cannot go backwards or stay in a place that is outdated.

Our industry is just so wasteful, we cannot keep doing what we have been doing, for the sake of the planet, people and all of other life on this earth because we are second after oil in terms of the destructive impact of our ways.

Programs such as the ones above are a start, and its time for people to get with the future. I remember when I had colleagues hesitant to use Ai to draw flats; they wanted to keep doing them by hand! We have to get out of our comfort zone and keep pushing forward and embrace the innovations in more ways than one.


I love your comment about not going backwards, agree 1000%! Could you share where you’re learning 3D design? I’m a patternmaker/designer of 15 years looking to upskill and want the best option for training - preferably online and at minimal cost (Browzwear is expensive!). TIA :slight_smile:

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CLO3D has a 30- day free trial, monthly subscription rate is affordable, and there are free tutorials- both official CLO ones and a lot by independent users on YouTube. Check out the CLO3D website www.clo3d.com.


Question: are high end companies adopting 3-D technology, or is just larger, mass market firms? I freelance in tech for high end companies, and they don’t even have PLM. One company still sketches by hand! The 3-D programs are expensive; I am wondering: who is using them? I do agree that it is the way of the future for mass market brands.

3D software is going to be more popular in the next 2 years. It will be more affordable also. There a several established companies in the space with quite a few startups coming in. China, France, India, the Ukraine all have promising 3D platforms that are gaining market share.


Is it for designer or elevated contemporary finished product, or only mass market, in your opinion?

Every level. They’re differentiating themselves and looking for opportunities. A lot of what we see on e-commerce sites is actually 3D and we don’t even realize it. It’s mainly home & accessories but we will see more as manufacturers see the value.


Thanks, Designmaven. Clearly 3-D designing is the way of the future. I also see that this is a mass market thing right now; I don’t see my clients requiring it any time soon, in the higher end. That said, any younger person should learn this technology.

When I trace the evolution of technology in textiles I have seen it become more and more embedded in the way we make goods. The tools increase every year and every company brings in what they see as worthwhile. But the use of software has steadily increased.

When technology works, it can do amazing things. I don’t feel 3D is ready for everyone. The potential is great and we can all see it. But I don’t think it’s ready for a fast pace, churning industry. 3D requires a well trained person, who requires MANY hours of training, that not every company is ready to invest in. Like all technology, it will be one day. I think information/data and clear, solid collaboration are crucial right now.

Well, from my personal experience, it all depends on what software you choose to use. As well as what you hope to accomplish. There are some platforms that are very intuitive and easy to pick up that can expedite specific tasks very quickly. Other platforms are more complex and, in some cases, achieve greater results. There’s a wide range of choices now and more options every day. Nothing will compare with the beauty of a hand painted design, or any piece that has the designer’s hand but that’s time consuming and rare these days.

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Hi! Can you go into more detail, which software have you found to be more useful and intuitive vs software you find complex / not helpful?

I design for home and apparel. Clos is moving into home now. CGI is a category of 3D that’s becoming very important in place of photography and sampling with Coohom, CGI Traders and a ton of other companies. If you look at LinkedIn and search 3D, you’ll see a lot of companies you’ve never heard of, but there’s all finding a niche and modifying their software as they grow to suit a range of clients.

3D is the future but both the industry and the software isn’t there yet.

The software doesn’t currently have a way to easily and inexpensively spot adjust fullness on avatars. All the spec manipulation is done circumferentially which is a real problem when it’s purportedly a tool used to check things like balance in womenswear. When I’m patternmaking for a brand that has a target customer with a fuller bust or seat, I need those extra inches added in the bust or the seat, not evenly on the entire circumference or I’m going to have side seams swinging wildly.

Once adjusting or building avatars where you can really control the shape of the body becomes easier, cheaper, or both, game on.

Alternately the industry is going to struggle to adopt 3d because of the salaries skilled patternmakers with 3d training can and will demand. 3d is a tool like any other CAD system and having the fanciest tools doesn’t make for a good patternmaker. Understanding the body, fabric and grain behavior, and sewing and construction along with tool use is what makes a good patternmaker.

No amount of conversancy in a 3d program is going to replace practical patternmaking skills and understanding. There are lots of shapes you can make in paper or pixels that seem like they would work perfectly but don’t work at all in reality because of the constraints of sewing line hand skill, machinery needs, and fabric stretch and warp behavior. As such, the 3d developer who is successful will already need to have a solid understanding that if every style line is cut at a 45 degree angle, it’s going to be a nightmare in manufacturing even if it looks great on a screen.

The wages that patternmakers who are comfortable in these programs will demand will likely be a huge sticking point for brands until they realize how many fits and how much fabric can be saved.

Hopefully the promise of lots of high paying 3d patternmaking roles will push more people into product side work too!


Totally agree with you Sparks! 3D CAD systems are just another set of tools, you need all the practical 2D skills & understanding of materials, fit on body etc to be able to use 3D tools effectively.


Thank you for saying that! I have times when I get defeated feeling, constantly trying to explain or justify why what we do as patternmakers is important and difficult, and hence, worth more than $25/hr.

I have recently been utilizing CLO to cross check fit before cutting a sample and I ran into that exact issue you were discussing . I had a client who was about a 1X at the waist and 4X at hips but all of her fullness was back to front, not on her sides (from front on her silhouette was fairly straight). CLO was then totally useless when I needed it the most. I’ve been poking around to try to find some software to create custom avatars so that I can control not just the measurement but the placement of that fullness. I haven’t really gotten anywhere yet… but hopefully I can find some solution. SO frustrating!

I have been learning CLO3D too. When you add custom measurements for the avatar, it is distributed evenly around the circumference, which is not always how people are shaped. You might try adjusting front and back waist length/rise length to see if it helps, I have adjusted for upper body posture curvature this way. This is a challenge especially for pants rise and bust shape. There is still a lot of room for improvement in avatars- the challenge is that the software developers may not realize yet that this aspect is needed & so haven’t gotten this far. You should challenge the CLO team with this- wish-list it! or put it out there to the CLO community for work-arounds, and see how others compensate or if they can develop some targeted dimension adjustment tools for it. Good luck!