Adidas has announced that the use of virtual technology in its product design process has saved the company more than one million material samples, as it looks to ramp up 3D modelling across its operations throughout the world.
The company launched its Virtualization programme back in 2004 as a way of not only injecting greater innovation into its designs, but to reduce its environmental footprint. Virtualization allows Adidas to engineer out waste and other resource impacts by fundamentally rethinking its product design strategies.
“During the product creation phase, an area where we can make a difference is to use virtual technology to share designs and sell in our products. This can save energy, materials, and waste too,” said Renate Eder, Adidas’ team leader for creation technologies apparel.
Adidas first started out by investigating how the automotive and aerospace industries were showcasing their products using digital 3D technology. However bringing this approach to so-called ‘softer’ manufacturing such as footwear and clothing was not easy, Eder recalled.
“Sporting goods are not made of hard surfaces but are soft, draping and have complex textures,” she said.
“We are not just working on a handful of styles, but we produce thousands of different articles per year. This means that, in order to provide the virtual products, 3D models need to be created for every model and colour way on time and in the right quality.”
The company also faced the challenge of creating photorealistic images for their virtual designs that were accurate enough for decision-making. Despite this, good progress has been made, thinks Eder.
“We have a smooth process established and all our core factories are trained and now capable of producing high-quality volumes of virtual samples.”
Eder added that the immediate benefits of virtualisation include allowing the company to continually reduce the quantity of physical samples required to design and sell new products.
“Compared to 2010, when the initiative was given the full green light, we have been able to save more than one million physical samples.
“With virtualisation, we save resources and money by reducing material waste, transportation and distribution costs.”
The company is now looking at expanding virtualisation to other areas of the business, such as its retail operations where shoppers will be able to select products on a virtual shelf through touch-screens.