Leading computerized knitting machine manufacturer Shima Seiki Mfg., Ltd. of Wakayama, Japan has launched a virtual showroom for displaying its collections in 3DCG.

At Shima Seiki’s 55th Anniversary celebration held in its home town of Wakayama, Japan last November, the company held a fashion show featuring a mixture of both real and virtual models. The items were also presented in printed form as the “Knit Visions” look book that was distributed at the show as souvenirs.

Watch the Shima Seiki 55th Anniversary Fashion Show video…

All of the looks were also available as 3D virtual models which are now collectively shown in a ‘virtual showroom’ in cyberspace. Launched at the anniversary event as VR-knit.com, the showroom is a web and mobile app that can be accessed through the website of the same web address (www.vr-knit.com).

Importance of virtual sampling

The virtual showroom as well as the virtual portion of the fashion show were both presented as proposals for future fashion design promotion. Shima Seiki has been promoting the importance of virtual sampling for some time now, where a majority of sample production is replaced by virtual swatches and garments, more recently worn by 3D virtual models.

“Sample-making requires a significant amount of time, cost and material in evaluating various material combinations, colourways and design variations. By replacing even a portion of this process with virtual samples produced using Shima Seiki’s SDS-ONE APEX3 3D design system, great savings in time and money can be realized while contributing to sustainable manufacturing through reduced material consumption,” comments Shima Seiki’s Masaki Karasuno.

“The quality of APEX3’s virtual samples is also very convincing. Virtual swatches have proven to be so realistic in their visual quality that the company often uses printed images in comparisons with actual swatch samples while challenging customers to guess which is the real sample and which is the virtual one. Customers usually cannot tell the difference,” Mr Karasuno adds.

Vr-knit.com © Shima Seiki.
Vr-knit.com © Shima Seiki.

Paradigm shift

Now with the virtual fashion show and showroom, Shima Seiki goes beyond the design evaluation and sampling stages proposing the use of virtual samples in collection presentations to buyers and merchandisers.

The proposed setup offers significant shift in paradigm toward efficiency and cost-savings through IoT applications. “Currently designers must invest an extraordinary amount of time, money and effort in producing at least one set of samples, hiring models, hair stylists, and make-up artists, renting venue space as well as miscellaneous expenditure such as catering and transportation, to produce a show that furthermore relies on the availability of potential customers to attend the presentation in the first place,” Masaki Karasuno explains.

“With virtual presentations, the designer can do away with all those worldly things and need only to provide 3D virtual models, base data for which is already available during design evaluation and presentation mentioned above. By broadcasting the presentation online it can be accessed at any time, allowing visitors to view on their own time.”

VR-knit App

Currently VR-knit.com is available as an app for both desktop and mobile devices and can be downloaded from Apple App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android applications. As the launch of the app coincided with Shima Seiki’s 55th Anniversary event, the initial collection consists of items presented during the event’s fashion show.

In the Future Zone, 3D Virtual Models created on Shima’s SDS-ONE APEX3 were combined with the latest VR (virtual reality) technology in order to present a virtual showroom. Four rooms were available for experiencing the virtual showroom using VR goggles. © Shima Seiki.
In the Future Zone, 3D Virtual Models created on Shima’s SDS-ONE APEX3 were combined with the latest VR (virtual reality) technology in order to present a virtual showroom. Four rooms were available for experiencing the virtual showroom using VR goggles. © Shima Seiki.

Consisting of 59 looks among 9 themes, users can scroll between themes, each containing between 5 and 8 looks. When a look is selected, it can be enlarged and either flipped 180 degrees or rotated 360 degrees for examining the samples in detail from all angles.

Additionally, some looks are available for viewing in 3D VR mode using VR goggles. Flags indicate separate items such as tops and bottoms, each of which can be selected to show production details such as yarn and material information as well as knitting times in a pop-up window.

Virtual samples based on actual production data

What distinguishes Shima Seiki’s virtual samples is the fact that they are created based on actual production data; an exclusive advantage afforded by being a leading flat knitting machine manufacturer, the company explains. Machine programming is performed in parallel, allowing immediate knitting once a look is chosen for production.

VR-Knit.com. (c) Copyright Shima Seiki.
VR-Knit.com. (c) Copyright Shima Seiki.

Before production even begins however, virtual models wearing next-season’s items can be used in presales events at the retail store or EC sites to gauge interest in those items for forecasting demand, information for which can be used to control production and lead to just-in-time inventory that contributes to maximized profits and reduced leftover waste for a truly sustainable product lifecycle.

Latest Shima sample collections

“For the time being, VR-knit.com is an app, which is designed for viewing the latest Shima Seiki knit sample collections with 3DCG images. Future versions hold in store animated 3DCG models for presenting simple fashion shows and increased interactive usage. Another possibility for the app would be the opportunity for customers to use VR-knit.com as a launchpad for their own collections,” concludes Mr Karasuno.

Monthly updates

The next update for VR-knit.com is scheduled for sometime during March 2018 with monthly updates to follow, coinciding with new sample releases. Sample data for the same samples will also be available to registered users of Shima Seiki’s staf (Shima Trend Archive and Forecast) web service.

Languages supported on VR-knit.com are English, Chinese, Japanese and devices supported are Windows desktop, Macintosh desktop, iOS, Android

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