, by SwatchOn

SwatchOn: Streamlining the Fabrics Sourcing Process Thanks to Digital Twins

Discover how SwatchOn uses the Substance 3D tools to build a Digital Twin Library for Fashion Design.

  • Design
  • Fashion
  • Interview

Hi, my name is Woosuk Lee. I’m the co-founder and CEO of SwatchOn. SwatchOn Co., Ltd. is a Korean company established in 2018 that offers two products. We currently have a diverse and dedicated team of 40+ individuals working together to achieve our goals. 

SwatchOn is an online platform for sourcing physical fabrics that connects fashion brands with textile suppliers worldwide. SwatchOn streamlines fabric sourcing by simplifying the supply chain and providing designers with fast access to 150k+ fabric options from 800+ suppliers.  

Today, we boast one of the largest 3D digital fabric libraries in the world through our newly launched service in August 2022, VMOD 3D Library. Not only are SwatchOn’s digital fabric files of the highest quality on the market, and reflect the physical parameters of their real-life twins, but the actual fabrics can be ordered and fulfilled by SwatchOn, keeping virtual design and physical fabric fulfillment in the same streamlined workflow. 

The VMOD 3D Library is a digital fabric library offering two services, including SwatchOn’s digital twin fabrics and a digitization service. With 6,000+ customizable 3D materials created from real-life fabric twins, VMOD is CLO’s first enterprise fabric partner and is compatible with CLO, Marvelous Designer, Substance 3D, and more. The Fabric Digitization Service allows users to request the digitization of their own fabrics. 

SwatchOn’s digitization strategy

When we first started building our fabric database, we captured 2D images and real-life videos to showcase features such as color, stretch, bend, and drape, as shown in the video below. 

However, displaying a small fabric sample was insufficient for showcasing its drape when made into clothing. This prompted SwatchOn to take further digital measures. We collaborated with CLO and began producing 3D digital fabrics. In 2019, SwatchOn started digitizing fabrics in 3D.  

Using 3D digital fabrics, fashion brands utilizing 3D design software can experiment with different digital fabrics on their designs to evaluate the silhouette and drape. If the fabric proves suitable, they can request fabric samples, or swatches, to examine the texture and see the physical version of the fabric in person. This process allows for faster creation of sample garments, reducing time to profitability. With SwatchOn’s digital fabrics, designers can continue to make changes without incurring the costs, time, and environmental impact of shipping, cutting, draping, and sewing. 

Today, VMOD 3D Library boasts one of the largest 3D digital fabric libraries in the world. VMOD 3D Library currently offers assets in ZFAB (compatible with CLO and Marvelous Designer), PNG and SBSAR file formats. With the SBSAR file format, VMOD is providing digital materials compatible with any design, simulation or visualization application including CLO, Marvelous Designer and many others.

I’d also like to explain this into two different parts for our two services, the 3D Library Service and the Fabric Digitization Service.   

3D Library Service – SwatchOn’s Digital Twin Library:

Digitization Service – Get the 3D digital twin from any real-life fabrics:

When the VMOD 3D Library was introduced, we received numerous inquiries asking if we could convert physical fabrics into digital ones for our users. The process of digitizing physical fabric is labor-intensive and often requires significant manual effort, as well as the use of expensive equipment, making it difficult to create an accurate digital representation of the physical fabric. 

As digitizing physical fabric to digital includes a lot of manual, tedious labor, we’ve created a modularized, efficient digital fabric production line into a cloud-based administration system which boosts efficiency and minimizes human error.  

This is the main reason why we are able to provide digitization services at competitive prices, while creating the most accurate and high-quality digital fabrics, even for complex and challenging fabrics that our competitors cannot handle. 

We are proud to announce the launch of our new fabric digitization service, which makes it easy to request digitization, track its progress, and manage digital fabrics on the VMOD.xyz website. 

Scan with Vizoo

The fabric digitization process

Fabric Digitization is the process of creating a 3D digital fabric from in-real-life fabrics, by capturing surface texture and physical parameters. 

1. Surface Texture 

  • The “fabric surface” is captured using 3D surface scanning devices, accurately captured by extracting PBR texture maps such as Normal, Height, Roughness, Metallic, Alpha, AO maps. 
  • VMOD uses Vizoo to achieve high resolution surface scanning. We have a team of skilled 3D texture artists who carefully examine and make necessary adjustments to PBR maps in photoshop and process the scans in Sampler for tiling, adding more details and create customizable parameters, and CLO to enhance the quality and cloth simulation. 
  • Why important: High quality and accurate surface texture allows you to create photorealistic renders. 

Scan processing with Substance 3D Designer

Equipments used by VMOD:  

  • Surface scanning: Vizoo A2 and A4 
  • Tiling: xTexTM 
  • PBR Texture Map Adjustments: CLO, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Substance 3D Sampler, Adobe Substance Designer, etc. 

2. Physical parameters 

  • The physical properties of fabrics are determined by capturing physical parameters such as weight, thickness, drape, bend, and stretch. 
  • VMOD effectively replicates the characteristics of physical fabric by capturing accurate physical measurements. We measure physical parameters with the devices listed below. 
  • Why important: Accurate physical properties allows you to get better, more accurate fit of your 3D garments. 

Physical properties in CLO

Equipments used by VMOD:  

  • Stretch: Tensile Machine (MMSTech / HZ-1003A) 
  • Bend: CLO Fabric Kit 

We decided to provide SBSar files from the beginning, as the Substance 3D software tools are crucial to create extra details such as embroidery, washing, damage washing, etc.  

We use Substance 3D Designer to connect nodes, and use Substance 3D Sampler to check the tiling to make sure it tiles as seamlessly repeatable.  

Post processing in Photoshop

Final render

The SBSAR file format

Initially, the fabric surface is scanned at high resolution (663 ppi) in either A4 or A2 size based on the pattern size. Afterwards, we crop the scanned image to produce a seamlessly repeatable tile. Using that tile, we generate seven different PBR texture maps, such as Base, Normal, Height, Roughness, Metallic, Alpha, and AO maps. Additionally, we extract up to ten separate color mask maps from the base map and integrate them into the SBSAR file to facilitate easy color customization for our users. 

If the scanned output does not meet our quality standards, we make necessary adjustments using programs like Photoshop, Substance 3D Sampler, and Substance 3D Designer. We scan about 1,000 fabrics per month.  

The use of Adobe Substance 3D applications and SBSAR file format is crucial for the fashion industry to use digital fabrics. 

The SBSAR format is important for 3D creators because of the following benefits: 

First of all, the compatibility of SBSAR files make it possible for 3D creators to utilize digital fabrics in CLO, Marvelous Designer but also across a range of software programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Cinema4D and Unreal Engine (Adobe note: see all the applications supporting SBSAR file format here).

Also, Substance 3D Painter offers even more creative possibilities by allowing users to not only use the fabric as a whole, but also to select specific parts and add unique details, like denim washing or distress, through the use of filters and generators, which is significant in creating a high quality 3D work. 

We provide our digital fabrics in three file formats: SBSAR, ZFAB, and PNG.  The ZFAB format is exclusive to CLO and Marvelous Designer. It includes both texture and physical properties, making it ideal for shaping garments. 

PNG files are images that are compatible with most software programs and while they can be used with various software tools, they do not offer the flexibility and parametric capabilities offered by the Substance 3D file format. Indeed, the SBSAR files available in VMOD can be utilized as provided in any design application, but they can also be customized and “augmented” with parameters in Substance 3D Designer or Substance 3D Sampler. Users have the option to define what features of the materials can be modified by exposing parameters and create their own SBSAR files. Users also have the option to embed measured Physical Properties (and any data associated to the fabric) as custom metadata (Adobe note: this refers to the Sampler 3.4.0. release)

Our SBSAR files come pre-packaged with the necessary parameters included in their creation, allowing users to effortlessly adjust these parameters within other software programs just as they would in Substance Painter or Stager. This streamlines the texturing process and eliminates the need for switching between multiple programs. 

Digital fashion

We believe that digital fashion is the future and envision it being utilized in two ways: (1) Enhancing the physical production process with digital fashion to increase efficiency, and (2) Utilizing the 3D fashion content directly.  

Our current focus is on integrating digital fashion into production, but we plan to develop a solution for creators that utilizes 3D fashion content in the near future. 

Fashion brands can use it as a marketing tool, often showcasing designs that only exist in 3D form and have no physical equivalent. The 3D fashion content can also be monetized through various means in the gaming industry, metaverse platforms, and so on. 

For 3D creators intending to use 3D fashion content without a physical counterpart, our current digital twin library is inadequate as it only comprises digital twins of actual physical counterparts. This limits the collection to only fabrics that can be physically replicated and worn. However, in the virtual world, anything is possible and doesn’t have to be physically replicable. 

To fulfill the needs of 3D designers who do not require a physical counterpart, we plan to build a solution that enables them to effortlessly create an unlimited range of fabric textures in a format suitable for various 3D softwares. Our goal is to launch this solution early next year.  

Use in production: customer use case

Rickard Lindqvist from [a]industri and his team have been long-time customers of SwatchOn, and our digital twin platform VMOD 3D Library. Rickard and his team have been a prominent fashion house in the 3D fashion industry since 2016. 

Rickard: [a]industri is a design and production company located in Gothenburg, Sweden that specializes in both digital and physical garments. Our goal is to be the most innovative and forward-thinking producer of garments in the world from a creative, social, and technical standpoint. To achieve this, we created all visual sales and marketing materials using renders of garments created in CLO3D, and sold physical garments on pre-order based on these renders.

To facilitate the pre-order concept, we often used fabrics from SwatchOn, as their system of keeping fabrics in stock with no minimum order quantities was ideal for our rapid turnover process. When SwatchOn launched digital twins of the fabrics, the process became even smoother for us, as we were able to download fabrics and create visualizations of garment designs before even ordering sample swatches. We create digital twins of the garments in the design phase. Many in the fashion industry still create sketches in 2D, by hand or in Adobe Illustrator. Then, a pattern maker creates a garment pattern also in 2D, which is eventually assembled into a 3D visualization for presentation purposes.

Our creative process begins in 3D. This not only allows us to visualize designs in a more realistic way, but also allows us to make changes and adjustments to the design much more easily and quickly. We use a range of digital tools including CLO3D for garment design and pattern making, Adobe Substance for fabric textures, Blender for sculpting, animation, and rendering, and we are exploring the use of Unreal Engine to incorporate the hyper realistic avatars of Metahumans into our workflow. The CLO3D files we create not only provide realistic visualizations of shape and fabric, but also contain all the necessary data for physical garment production, including pattern pieces, graded sizes, seam allowance, and measurements for quality control. 

By using digital tools, we are able to see our designs from different angles and perspectives, which allows us to evaluate them more accurately and make necessary changes at an early stage. This results in a more efficient and effective creative process, which in turn leads to better products. Additionally, digitisation allows us to create new designs and methods of presentation that were not possible or too resource-intensive before. This opens up new possibilities and directions for our designs, which ultimately leads to a more innovative and creative output. Overall, digitisation has played a vital role in our business, enabling us to create better products and streamline our design process. 

Digital twin of a garment

We made a replica of the Zeltbahn shelter garment using a checked boiled molton real-life fabric from SwatchOn and also downloaded the digital twin fabric from VMOD 3D Library. Perfect for the Swedish winter! 

Digital fabric: PD-00439874 on VMOD 3D Library  

Physical fabric: PD-00439874 on SwatchOn  

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