Technological advances are infiltrating all aspects of design — and 3-D product development is at the head of the charge. The 3D Product Development Workshop, co-hosted by FDRA and Romans CAD in New York on Nov. 13, aimed to bring 3-D design software to a broader swath of the footwear industry. Consisting of a full day of talks and case studies, the workshop explored the different applications of 3-D platforms — specifically Romans CAD — on the design process.
The impetus for brands to change their production process is clear: The financial environment for footwear companies is increasingly challenging. Shoes carry some of the highest duties of any imported good, with an average rate of 11 percent per pair and some reaching as high as 67 percent for children’s shoes.
“U.S. companies spent $2.88 billion on duties in 2017 alone; by comparison, the iPhone has a duty rate of 0 percent,” explained Andy Polk, SVP at the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America.
Combined with increasing customer expectation for discounts and affordability, he said, the result is a squeezed profit line for footwear brands.
One solution is to maximize the efficiency of production to save both time and cost — and 3-D product development achieves this. By allowing designers to produce three-dimensional designs from the outset, customized to their individual lasts, software like Romans CAD ensures that factories receive a much more detailed and accurate representation of the final product. This reduces the need for producing multiple variations — industry standard is typically two to four versions — until a final design is approved.
“Design is not just an artistic job,” said Jean Pierre Pedeboy, CEO of Strategies Romans CAD. “We design for production, we don’t just design to produce images. You design because you need to know the cost.”
Working straight in 3-D also speeds up the design process, providing the additional ability to scan and apply 2-D sketches to 3-D shapes. A sample can be generated on a quicker timeline; where previously it might take a brand 12 to 24 weeks to produce a regular sample, Romans CAD claimed the process could be reduced to two to four days with a 3-D product. And the accuracy of rendering is still very high, particularly when combined with software such as TAC, a product by workshop sponsor X-rite Pantone that allows users to upload a “digital twin” of their chosen material into various 3-D programs, including Romans CAD.
Romans CAD was founded in 1984 and has nearly 25 years in the business, counting such brands as Nike, Deckers, Clarks, Armani and Louis Vuitton among its clients. With over 1,600 customers worldwide, the platform provides a multifaceted approach to design: Designers can sketch a 3-D model by hand on a tablet; scan, upload and apply hand-drawn patterns to different shoe shapes; and test each component individually for flaws before final printing. Some brands have also opted for a transitional approach to the program, whereby traditional designers send a sketched design to a CAD specialist who translates it into a 3-D format within a matter of hours.
“Romans CAD are the best by far for shoes,” said Polk. “They started with shoes. A lot of other 3-D companies are predominantly industrial, but Romans CAD began with shoes; they design specifically around that.”
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