A good fit: Bosch partners with Aussie startup on 3D custom clothing technology Leave a comment



“We never imagined the possibility of partnering with a company such as Bosch,” says Tim Allison, who is the Executive Chairman of Bodd Technology (formerly Tec.Fit) “Their reputation is stunning – and earned through delivering the best in engineering, manufacturing and support. Every Bosch product globally is cutting edge and world class.”

Yet Bodd Technology – a small Australian business that specialises in software-as-a-service to custom clothing manufacturers by using bespoke 3D scanners and mannequin printers – has indeed partnered with Bosch to commercialise the hardware aspect of their enterprise.

This is a venture made possible through Bosch Australia’s Manufacturing Solutions (BAMS) Group, which works with an average of two to three Australian manufacturing startups per year, helping them develop and validate their products for market.

In the case of Bodd Technology, which is the technology business component of Custom Innovation Co, the collaboration with Bosch has meant they are one step closer to realising a global vision: to abolish clothing sizes altogether and address the systemic issue of waste in fashion.

“We envision a size-less future, where all clothing is custom-made,” enthuses Tim. “The clothing industry is the second worst most polluting sector in the world, next to the oil industry. Waste is a trillion-dollar problem, and the environmental impact of that is very confronting; it needs to change. Our technology directly tackles the issue of miss-sizing, which can account for 30 per cent of a retailer’s cost, and results in the destroying or incineration of countless garments around the world.”

Tim’s comments are backed up by alarming statistics. Indeed, sources indicate online retail in Australia accounts for 30 per cent of returns1. Moreover, Australian clothing purchases have increased by 60 per cent in the past 15 years, while a staggering 85 per cent of all garments end in landfill2-5. Globally, the fashion industry is valued at 1.3 trillion USD, is responsible for 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and for using 20 per cent of the world water supply6.7.

This is why sizeism has no place in fashion, says Tim.

“Sizes not only create stigma around body shape, but poor-fitting clothing accounts for so much waste, it’s simply unsustainable from an environmental and economical perspective,” he explains. “If you take out the costs of garment returns and waste and you put that back into custom manufacturing with improved customer engagement, the clothing is going to be of a higher quality, last longer and turn out to be cheaper – a great outcome for everyone.”

The key motivation behind Bodd Technology has been to provide access to affordable, more efficient 3D fitting technology, so that custom-clothing can become a global reality. In fact, Bodd Technology is the sister business and brainchild of the founders of Tailors Mark, an e-tailoring business. Both businesses now exist under the one company, Custom Innovation Co.

The decision to start building technology that focusses on advanced 3D body scanning and printing, is a direct result of the experience of Tailors Mark.

“With Tailors Mark, which specialises in custom made menswear, we were returning too many clothes because of inaccurate sizing and curvature from manual measurements,” says Tim. “The primary focus of Bodd Technology is in capturing very real, high quality 3D body scans on mass, both at retail and remotely. Combined with our 3D printers, clients can then rapidly produce duplicate customer mannequins at the point of manufacture.”

The emphasis on the scan being ‘real’ cannot be overstated by Tim. It’s a point of difference with the Bodd Technology scanning technology.

“There are other measurement tools and phone apps that use projections, based on algorithms that your body should supposedly look like, but in reality, these are based on a symmetrical equation, and no real body is symmetrical,” he explains. “Our approach has always been that you have to start with a perfect scan, and our scanner can capture a person’s real 3D body shape in 45 seconds.”

The second part of their technology is the 3D printing hardware, which uses lightweight, biodegradable PLA material to print mannequins.

“We didn’t invent 3D printing of course, but we did invent the fastest mannequin printers, and this aspect is very niche,” says Tim. “Because the mannequins can be printed so quickly and cheaply, there’s no need to keep mannequins in store.”

However, it’s in providing software-as-a-service that Bodd Technology want to focus their operations, which is why partnering with a hardware manufacturer has been so essential to their business model.

“We’re an early stage company that’s been trying to build hardware to ship globally – that’s incredibly hard to do for any Australian company, especially with this type of advanced manufacturing, and being so isolated geographically,” Tim points out. “We spent a lot of time talking with small manufacturers we thought we could partner with in traditional markets overseas but the problem we were faced with was quality. The hardware has to be precise.”

A referral to Bosch changed everything.

“Bosch provided the last and most difficult part of our commercialisation pathway,” explains Tim. “They took our final prototype and re-engineered it for a robust 365 day and year operation – the difference between our homemade prototypes and the commercial product is significant.”

According to Jens Wachter, who is the Department Manager of Bosch Australia’s Manufacturing Solutions (BAMS) Group, Bodd Technology is recognised as a good fit from the Bosch perspective too.

“BAMS supports startups where we see a potential long-term benefit from a Bosch portfolio perspective or where we can provide services for a small volume manufacturing production to produce the parts required,” he explains. “Bodd Technology are unique in that they have the innovative product ideas but also have a willingness to be flexible when it comes to altering their product to suit an automation approach.”

Jens has been actively involved in the Bodd Technology project, overseeing the development of both their scanners and printers within BAMS. This has involved reviewing their drawings, taking them through the assembly steps, building sample parts or products to validate the hardware and providing product testing. Importantly, BAMS has been able to contribute their own innovations, components and services within the Bosch global supply chain.

“We’re able to help them from a compliance perspective and with the product validation with vast testing facilities and access to standards,” Jens notes. “We’ve also provided workshops, which is a service that takes them through their product from the raw materials, through assembly, supply chain and what type of automation would be required to scale up the manufacture.”

While the partnership is in its infancy, Jens is positive about the Bodd Technology hardware.

“Our hope would be to get a small scale production out of their product, and perhaps one day it may be suitable for the Bosch portfolio. However, this is a much longer journey, that requires various sample phases,” he explains. “For now, we’ve been able to bring their product to an initial commercial phase, and at the quality they wished to achieve – which is very difficult for any startup to achieve on their own.”

From the experience of Bodd Technology, Tim uses the analogy of a parent with their child to describe the partnership between his company and the distinguished manufacturer.

“Bosch for us feels like a father nurturing their child’s growth and development. The amount of time, expertise, advice, interest and support has been extraordinary. Our product is treated no differently to a Bosch branded product,” he praises. “Their level of care and quality is world class and they have gone beyond our expectations. They also want us to be a global success. Australia, with its focus on new manufacturing technology and related services is lucky to have such a unique early stage prototyping and commercialisation expert.”


References

  1. The hidden cost of ‘free’ online shopping returns https://www.afr.com/companies/retail/the-hidden-cost-of-free-online-shopping-returns-20191226-p53mx8
  2. Fast fashion quick to cause environmental havoc https://sustainability.uq.edu.au/projects/recycling-and-waste-minimisation/fast-fashion-quick-cause-environmental-havoc
  3. The future of industry: Advocating on behalf of the Textile & Apparel Sector https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=99a94624-226f-4032-b216-d4a63e83c467&subId=678301
  4. A Circular Economy for the Textile & Apparel Sector https://acta.global/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/ACTA_PositionPaper2020_FINAL.pdf
  5. Fashion and the circular economy https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/fashion-and-the-circular-economy
  6. Why clothes are so hard to recycle https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200710-why-clothes-are-so-hard-to-recycle

UN Alliance aims to put fashion on path to sustainability  https://unece.org/forestry/press/un-alliance-aims-put-fashion-path-sustainability



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