A novel project called AM4U (Apparel Made for You) has been started, in the US, by a group of highly qualified, experienced and motivated textile professionals. Bud Robinson – Chief Marketing Officer of the Critical Mass Manufacturing Inc, (CMM) is the co-ordinator of the project. CMM is the leading member of a group of apparel industry advisors to Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Apparel Merchandising and Management (AMM). Bud has worked as President of Levi Strauss International, and President of Hang Ten and Catalina Swimwear. He was also EVP of the Gap Stores and was instrumental in their startup. Dr. Peter Kilduff, Chair of AMM and also AM4U’s mentor, believes that the AM4U technology has the capacity to change the apparel industry from supply and demand to demand and supply. The main aim of the project is to help bring the textile industry back to the United States instead of relying on large-scale mass printing and production overseas by making the technology or products available to people who need them on a wider scale. The team calls this “demand manufacturing”. Other organisations involved in the AM4U project are: Styku virtual body-scanning, Tukatech Apparel Technology, AIMS apparel management system and Eton Systems.
CMM claims that it has developed the Active Tunnel Coloration (ATC) process (patent pending) which allows color changes on the fly, any colors and different colors for each garment, that includes all over prints and graphics. This process will eliminate finished goods inventory. The underlying principle of this technology is that the fiber itself contains enough energy to conduct coloration from the energy stored in the fiber, rather than requiring external chemicals to create color, thus eliminating the massive dyeing processes. Currently, this research has been limited to man-made polymers, such as nylon and polyester.
Tukatech + Styku offer a fully integrated ‘made-to-measure’ system. It features a Kinect™-based Styku body scanner that scans in less than 3 seconds, extracts measurements, and adjusts patterns automatically using Tukatech’s advanced 3D CAD software. In minutes, an image is created that shows how a garment will fit and look on an individual body shape. This ultra-low cost body scanning solution can extract hundreds of core body measurements in about 3 seconds. Consumers can use the Xbox Live platform, or their PC, to scan themselves at home and instantly “try-on” apparel items and see a 3D image of how the garment will fit their body. AIMS® offers a comprehensive, fully-integrated system which dramatically improves the way companies in the garment industry run, manage, and track their businesses covering sales, accounting and order processing through production, inventory management, and distribution. The Eton system for apparel industries consists of overhead conveyors with individually addressable product carriers, automatically finding its way to the correct operation. The Eton system transports all the pieces of one complete product through the manufacturing process. An addressable product carrier takes all the pieces of one entire unit (i.e. for trousers – backs, fronts, pockets etc.) through the different steps of production resulting in cost-efficient production.
The AM4U project aims to set up ‘demand manufacturing’ (mini manufacturing modu-les) across the US by using various virtual technology resources. Even if this project succeeds partially, it will open up ample new business opportunities at least for the E-gen or I-gen in the rapidly changing global economy – not limited to the US alone.