, by Salomon

Salomon: Accelerating the Footwear Design Pipeline

Getting higher accuracy and faster design validation with Substance 3D

  • Design
  • Fashion
  • Interview

Emilien: Hi, I’m Emilien Arbez. During my 11 years at Salomon, I’ve held various positions, from footwear engineer to project manager, including the development of new industrial processes, always with the same guideline: 3D for innovation. I took charge of digital product creation in March 2020 to co-write the digital transformation of Salomon.

Today, I am in charge of the Digital Product Creation team in the Footwear category, which aims to provide the right digital tools, which are in perpetual evolution. Our goal is to facilitate the collective intelligence at the service of the company’s performance and the professional and personal development of everyone. The digitization of our products at different stages of the development process allows us to set up this state of mind, and thus transform the creation chain.

Léa: Hello, I’m Léa Le Fort and I’m a 3D designer in the footwear department at Salomon. After a first experience in the digital studio at Louis Vuitton during my master in digital design at ISD in Valenciennes, I chose to go into footwear. I was then lucky enough to do my end-of-study internship in 2020 at Salomon within the design team, which was totally new at that time. 

I’ve been actively participating for two years in the writing of the 3D process for footwear design at Salomon, with the integration of the Substance 3D tools.

Rendered with Substance 3D Stager

Pulsar: The first shoe model fully conceived in 3D

Emilien: It’s the first project on which we worked fully in 3D across all the validation phases of our process. This project allowed us to do tests in real conditions, but not without challenges as it fell in the middle of March 2020. It was at this very moment that we started using Adobe’s Substance 3D Painter software. The tool seemed to fit perfectly with our needs and our production constraints: a tight timing to put in volume (model) the sketches of the designers, no specific 3D tools dedicated to footwear, and a limited experience at that time on more or less successful attempts to model our products, due to the complexity of the modeling process. 

With a tight schedule, from a design sketch to the proposal of 3 models of our new Pulsar range, Léa was able to demonstrate the power of the new workflow. In 6 weeks she was able to combine the different 3D modeling solutions that we integrated with Painter to propose the following 3 visuals:

Pulsar Trail Pro (Illustrator sketch/3D model):

Our 3D transformation journey

Emilien: The need to implement 3D in our design pipeline had been present for a few years, and it clearly materialized in 2020 when our management decided to create a digital transformation team within the Footwear category with the aim of improving the employee experience, improving our development agility, reducing low value-added tasks, and providing viable solutions to reduce our environmental impact by proposing a better validation process. In the digital product creation mindset, we see the 3D object like a diamond that needs to be worked on, and this is what we are working on with the help of tools like Substance 3D in our creative pipeline.

Emersya viewer:

Visualization is one of the keys for success in accelerating decision making, strengthening the link with creative direction and reducing our time-to-market by validating the product in the marketing touch points. The Adobe Substance tools allow us to reinforce the user experience, offer us a lot of flexibility and a reduced adoption time for the designers by importing digital assets from other tools.

Guillaume Meyzenq, SVP Consumer Category Running, Outdoor & Sportstyle, Salomon.

The ease of integrating Substance 3D into our pipeline

Léa: The adoption of Substance 3D, because of its very intuitive interface and power, has made it very easy to integrate into our creative pipeline. Within a year we were able to set up a process mixing several 3D modeling tools and Substance 3D Painter to add all the details of layers and textures, especially on the upper (i.e. The entire part of the shoe that covers the foot).

Texturing the upper in Painter

Substance 3D halved our design validation process

Emilien: Seeing how Substance was used in the gaming and animation world, we created our own workflow that allows us to perform many iterations with a realistic enough rendering to align all actors around the project. 

The power of the Substance 3D solutions has allowed us to reduce modeling time, by reducing the number of parts, and by playing with textures to create false overlays. 

Today, a 3D model that we use for design validation takes 25 to 40 hours to put the design intent, textures, and colors into volume.

Without this simplification of our modeling, a more detailed file including all the parts of a product takes between 50 and 80 hours of modeling, depending on the complexity.

Lea: Previously, on a shoe, only the sole was modeled in 3D in the production factories for mold opening purposes.

The addition of this tool allowed us to integrate the creation phases from the start, by working on the entire product: sole and upper in a simplified way.

This process allows us to increase tenfold the number of iterations in terms of design and also materials and colors. This allows us to make more accurate decisions before the development phase.  

Substance 3D integrates easily with other tools

Léa: In order to remain flexible when facing various requests, various projects, and different timing constraints, we work on our soles with polygons or surface. Our stems (upper) are exclusively worked with polygons in a very simplified way in order to obtain a silhouette that can be easily worked on and modified in Substance 3D Painter. Below, you can see the simplified model made in our 3D modeling tool, before and after having added displacement in Painter.

After Before

Before and after adding Displacement in Painter

In terms of export, we easily link our modeling tools to Painter using FBX files. The GLB exported from Painter allows us to integrate a complete file in our visualization tool, but it is also used by our CGI artist, Colin Charles to make still and animated renders.

Substance 3D provides higher levels of accuracy

Léa: The adoption of Substance has allowed us to develop the products in more detail, especially on the stem. We are coming in earlier in the process with a higher level of accuracy, as well as more flexibility to quickly make the necessary changes.

This clearly allows us to align all the actors on advanced visuals of the products as well as to integrate the industrial constraints in the best way possible.

In terms of mockups, we are not yet able to transfer our work done on Substance 3D to obtain physical mockups. However, we have been able to realize some experiments, including some products in full 3D bottom/upper printing, thanks to displacement created in Painter and generated in our modeling tool.

Winning time in the prototype process

Emilien: We gain back and forths between developers and our industrial partners. 

Without 3D, we had 4 to 5 weeks of technical exchanges with the factories and the prototype we received was not always in line with what we expected. With 3D, we can get down to 1 to 2 weeks and the prototype we receive is faithful to what all the actors of the project had in mind.  

Substance 3D Stager helps in project validation

Léa: To date, we are using Substance 3D Stager in the creation phase, to push the level of 3D visuals for internal presentations during the different stages of project validation.

Emilien:  Stager seems to be a great tool that we can’t wait to take further beyond our creative phase as well as generate communication assets outside of our internal meetings.

The bright future of 3D at Salomon

At Salomon, what the Footwear team has demonstrated over the past two years with the integration of 3D with a simplified workflow has triggered requests to adopt Substance 3D in other categories: Apparel & Winter Sports. 

The ease of use of Substance in relation to the communication benefits the tool provides is appealing to our product designers, who are increasingly asking to integrate 3D into their daily work. This creative complement is in a very advanced phase so that our product designers can become more proficient in 3D.

And more to come with Substance 3D Designer…

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