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Development of new technologies for the flexible and eco-efficient production of customized healthy clothing, footwear and orthotics for consumers with highly individualised needs

Final Report Summary - FASHION-ABLE (Development of new technologies for the flexible and eco-efficient production of customized healthy clothing, footwear and orthotics for consumers with highly individualised needs)

Executive Summary:
Mass-customization of wearable products are offered as a higher added value to the broad public and had to compete with ready-to-wear offer. However, people with specific requirements are not covered with the current mass-customized products. This is the case of the elderly, disabled, diabetic and obese population groups when wearing textiles, clothing, footwear and textile-based orthotic goods. However, at present, available knowledge and flexibility of production equipment and machinery of SMEs operating in these traditional industries (even those that already offer made-to-measure products to the mass public) is unable to respond to the individual needs among such heterogeneous groups. The FASHION-ABLE project has solved this problem with: User Framework defining and quantifying the relevant user attributes, New Collaborative Product Customization Services, New stretch-leather’s manufacturing processes and equipment, New 3D-spacer fabric’s flexible manufacturing process and machinery, New textile’s finishing operations and equipment, An extended manufacturing order management structure and tools, Life-Cycle Analysis instruments, and Interoperable Product Data Management tools.
We use the end-user specifications in order to develop product customization services to be used by end-users and professionals (configurators). These tools manage the consumer characteristics and preferences which are the key to individual customization. A collaborative design environment made possible to define the morphological and functional characteristics of the end-user, to configure product style, and to individually personalize key product functionalities relevant to guarantee comfort and avoid health problems. The configurators are connected with an automatic method for adaptation of product dimensions to (atypical) individual shapes and postures. This method is applied to textile products (e.g. clothes and textile orthotics).

In order to develop comfortable and fashion products (e.g. footwear and clothes) one of the results is the development of a new stretching textile, whose final mechanical properties are among the main added values, along with aesthetical and tactile feeling. The new materials combine stretch leather with 3D fabrics. During the project a new manufacturing machine was developed together with a CAM system. A set of parameters based on past production quality checks control the main mechanical and thermic elements of the process, along with the devices, which verify their behaviour during machine operations by means of appropriate sensors. This approach enables the product developers to elaborate past results and take decision based on their verified quality.
To adapt the pattern of the products to customer measures we have developed a process that uses the customer measures to determine the correlating reference size that matches best to the gathered dimensions. In the next step the determined reference size is adapted depending on the divergence of customer measurements to a defined basis set of measurements that was used to develop the reference sizes. For this made to measure (MtM) actions were developed in a morphotype specific way. This allows to cluster customer groups to morphotypes and to develop for those groups optimised MtM rules.
In addition to the new customization processes, a new tool has been designed to support the constant reuse of environmental studies (Life-Cycle Analysis) particularly for the supply of new technical materials (i.e. nano-materials) and sector-specific components (i.e. footbed) in order to counterbalance the high variability of the fashion product chain. EPD general rules already provide a partial harmonization between the PCRs of the upstream materials (e.g. textiles) and the PCRs which are defined to downstream products containing such materials (e.g. footwear).
Finally, we have evaluated successfully the feasibility of the new customization processes with real costumers in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Poland and Spain. We have delivered real products in 3 demonstration campaigns: shoes, clothes and textile orthotics. The costumers cover 3 target groups: obese people, wheelchair users, and people with special needs regarding foot shape and physiology (diabetic).

Project Context and Objectives:
Until now, mass-customization of wearable products has been offered as a higher added-value to the broad public and had to compete with ready-to-wear offer. However, there are population groups for which personalization IS NOT JUST AN ADDED-VALUE BUT a REAL NEED affecting their HEALTH and QUALITY OF LIFE because off-the-shelf products do not meet their morphological or functional diversity.
This is the case of the elderly, disabled, diabetic and obese population groups when wearing textiles, clothing, footwear and textile-based orthotic goods. But at present, available knowledge and flexibility of production equipment and machinery of SMEs operating in these traditional industries (even those that already offer made-to-measure products to the mass public) is unable to respond to the individual needs among such heterogeneous groups.

FASHION-ABLE project aims at providing the European innovative and customization-concerned SMEs with the technological means that will enable the agile and eco-efficient production of personalised products addressing the complex individualised needs of growing market niches out of the scope of mass-produced goods in terms of health and performance.
In particular, FASHION-ABLE project has implemented and demonstrate the new cross-sectorial technologies developed in industrial contexts in three concrete highly challenging target groups:
Diabetics developing diabetic foot (30 million) among which elderly and obese patients are in higher risk.
Physically disabled people requiring a wheelchair to move (5 million) among which over 2 million are aged 65+.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) sufferers (over 40 million) which prevalence increases with age and weight.

Project Results:
The FASHION-ABLE project aims at providing the European innovative and customization-concerned companies with the technological means that will enable the agile and eco-efficient production of personalised products in terms of health and performance, addressing the complex individualised needs of such growing market niches out of the scope of mass-produced goods. In particular, the FASHION-ABLE action implements and demonstrates in industrial contexts innovative cross-sectorial technologies developed for three highly challenging target groups: fashionable footwear for diabetic feet, fashionable clothing for wheelchair users, high-performing textile compression bandages. This section of the report introduces the methodology developed and presents the main S/T results/foregrounds results obtained.
The main objectives achieved during the project are:
O1. Definition of a user framework that defines the relevant user attributes for each of targets issue of demonstration cases (footwear for neuropathic feet, clothing for wheelchair users and textile-based orthotics for pressure therapy).
O2. Development of New Collaborative Product Customization Services that enable the involvement of users and professionals (i.e. orthotic technicians) in the definition of requirements to tailor the products to individual functional needs and style at the point of sale (i.e. orthopaedic shop). They constitute the interface between the user/professional and the production site enabling to send an accurate product order to manufacture a fully customised product. Three different applications have been developed: footwear, clothing and orthotics.
O3. New stretch-leather’s lean manufacturing processes, enabling to control and tailor mechanical (i.e. elasticity, resiliency, surface resistance, and thickness) properties of made-to-order leather components for footwear and leather garments while increasing productivity and eco-efficiency.
O4. New 3D-spacer fabric’s flexible manufacturing process, enabling to control and tailor structural (i.e. thickness, stiffness and elasticity) properties of made-to-order textile components while increasing productivity and eco-efficiency.
O5. New process of digital functionalization by airless fine spraying. The new process enables individual application for specific areas of the product components’ surface requiring specific functionalisations to improve user product-interaction (i.e. skin friction, skin care, anti-septic, anti-fungi, anti-bacterial, waterproof).
O6. Extended manufacturing order management and Interoperable product data management tools structure and tools, integrating new services with new manufacturing solutions and machinery (pattern marking, cutting and sewing/stitching) used by footwear, orthotics and clothing manufacturers in order to ensure a seamless management and execution of single manufacturing orders for the individually configured product.
O7. Life-Cycle Analysis instruments, enabling to track, monitor and optimize the use of resources and environmental impact of products and along the processes involved. WP3, milestones M9 and M18.

FASHION-ABLE provides to the European innovative and customization-concerned SMEs with the technological means that will enable the agile and eco-efficient production of personalised products addressing the complex individualised needs of growing market niches out of the scope of mass-produced goods in terms of health and performance.
In particular, we have demonstrated that the methodology applied is feasible for developing s the new cross-sectorial technologies for three highly challenging target groups: fashionable footwear for diabetic feet, fashionable clothing for wheelchair users and high-performing textile compression bandages.
The harmonized combination of developed technologies will have a direct impact on health, comfort, safety and quality of life of the targeted populations: diabetics developing diabetic feet; physically disabled people requiring a wheelchair; and sufferers from acute periods of musculoskeletal disorders which prevalence increases with age and weight. Furthermore, the cross-sectorial approach will allow for extending and up-scaling functional customisation with little effort to future unexpected functionalities as well as to be transferred to other products and high demanding markets.

Potential Impact:
Knowledge and technologies developed will overcome the common process barriers that currently hinder manufacturing companies from the addressed industries to effectively customise products to individuals:
• Definition of the relations between user requirements depending on individual attributes and its translation into quantified product specifications for orthotics, footwear and clothing.
• True involvement of users and orthotic technicians in the definition of product requirements (both style and function) through effective communication supportive technologies.
• Drastic reduction of current trial and error cycles followed to optimize product performance to individual requirements.
• Flexibility of the production processes of leather and textiles, and integration of eco-friendly materials providing with new tailored-to-function properties into products that will enable to customise garment, footwear and orthotic components to the wider variety of higher performing functions required.
• Introduction of new finishing operations enabling to locate multiple on-demand physiological and tribological properties in specific areas of the product.
• Vertical integration along the supply chain to effectively shorten production cycles and delivery times.
• Tracking, monitoring and optimizing the use of resources and environmental impact of products from a lifecycle perspective (production processes + use).

Main socioeconomic impacts expected from the implementation of project outcomes will be:
• Raise competitiveness of European SMEs in the textiles, clothing, footwear and orthotics manufacturing industries. The project will provide them with a protectable business opportunity based on their ability to respond the highly individualised needs of currently unaddressed market niches.
• Substantially improve the health, comfort, quality of life, social inclusion and independent living of the targeted population groups by the enlargement of product assortments meeting their needs and substantially improving end-users satisfaction and quality of life.
• Reduce the environmental impact and optimize the use of resources currently made by the European textile, clothing, orthotics and footwear industries in their products and processes.
• Set the technological basis and the industrial framework for extending and up-scaling functional customisation to other high demanding premium niches such as children or sports.

The harmonised combination of the project results will have a direct impact on health, comfort, safety and quality of life of the targeted populations:
• Diabetics developing diabetic feet (30 million) among which elderly and obese patients are in higher risk.
• Physically disabled people requiring a wheelchair to move (5 million, where over 2 million aged 65+.
• Sufferers of acute periods of musculoskeletal disorders (over 40 million) which prevalence increases with age and weight.
In the particular target groups considered in the project, a significant impact in health is expected due to the functional and morphometric customisation of clothing, footwear and orthotics by: contribution to the reduction of the likelihood of developing pressure ulcers by 5% and the considerable improvement of sweat and moisture accumulation, skin care and hygienic conditions while following fashion trends. This will lead to an increase in product acceptability and comfort by a 40%, contributing directly to the fulfilment of users’ individual physical, physiological and functional needs, and filling the current offer-demand gap. There features together with suitable prices will ensure a broad market penetration growing at 5% p.a.
Moreover FASHION-ABLE project aim not only to address the needs of European citizens, which represent a significant social problem in Europe, but also to contribute to reducing Public Health System burden derived from savings on treatments for the health problems avoided.


Main dissemination activities

The main objective of Fashion-able dissemination activities was to outreach to consumer groups with special needs and related research and industrial community across the EU. Thus, after the launch of the project the dissemination strategy and tools were set up to assure efficient communication of all project’s developments and results to different audiences both within and outside the Consortium.
During the project a number of national and regional dissemination events were organised by the consortium in different European countries. These events became a strong communication activity of the project (detailed description below). The project has been present in international conferences. For example: ICE 2012, ICE 2014, Manufuture conference 2103 and the European Congress on Innovations in Textiles for Health Care 2013. Moreover, a paper with the main results of the project has been submitted to the Journal of Computer Integrated Manufacturing.
The dissemination largely benefitted from the availability of contents produced during the three demonstration campaigns: shoes, clothes and orthotics. The campaigns delivered the Fashion-able products to real costumers from Belgium, Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain, hence the campaigns proved that the results achieved during the project activities could be used in actual production contexts and ultimately were welcomed by the market. Partners delivered customized products to highly challenging target groups: people that suffer diabetic foot and deformations, wheelchair users and obese people. The results of the campaign received very positive feedback and most costumers shown full satisfaction with the products delivered. Some wheelchair users confirmed that the shirt is only comfortable and fits well, but this was the first time they could obtain a fashionable and attractive product.
The final dissemination activities took large inspiration from the approach and the results of the demonstration campaign.

IMS-YourGoods event, Valencia (Spain), 27-28 February 2013
The first Fashion-able dissemination event took place in Valencia, Spain on 27-28 February 2013. A two days event was organised and coordinated by the hosting partner and Consortium coordinator IBV, in cooperation with partners and external stakeholders. The Fashion-able specific presentation was focused on the customer needs and product specification. The event offered the opportunity to present early results and discuss synergies concerning the activities of Fashion-able and those of other related projects.
To maximize the impact of the dissemination event beyond the some 40 participants present as well to allow further dissemination in longer period of time at additional costs all the materials (videos, presentations, photos) have been made available in the IBV web site: http://indumentaria.ibv.org/yourgoods.

OFOONR General Assembly, Lublin (Poland), 26-27 October 2013
Another Fashion-able dissemination activity was organised in in October 2013 in Lublin, Poland, in the framework of the General Assembly of OFOONR, the Polish national association representing people with impaired motor functions, one of the target end-users of Fashion-able. The event rolled out based on a three day calendar of activities, the first two days addressed mostly the sport performers with mobility impairment. On the final day, at the OFOONR General assembly Bivolino presented Fashion-able to the delegates of associations-members of OFOONR by using both the general presentation (Fashion-Able goals, partners, etc.) and the detailed presentation on the use of the online wheelchair configurator.


EU Open Doors Day, Brussels (Belgium), 17 May 2014
In May 2014, the Fashion-able partners organised a dissemination activity in Brussels, Belgium, within the European Institutions’ Open Doors event targeting the broad public raging from decision-makers to the end-users. The Fashion-able partners presented the project in a separate stand placed in a highly visible location inside the Headquarters of the European Commission. At the result of the event, the achievements of Fashion-able project were exhibited for some 15.000 visitors of the Open Doors event, including: fashionable shirts for wheelchairs users, customized shoes for feet shape altered by illness and high-performing textile compression bandages. Features of the on-line tools for consumers to co-design and order ‘on demand’ wearable goods were demonstrated on a big screen next to the Fashion-able stand. Many guests asked details about the innovative processes and materials used to produce clothes. To strengthen the impact of the event the following articles were published:
- Euratex website: http://bit.ly/1hJKcrG
- Fashion-able website: http://www.fashionable-project.eu/node/670


General Assembly of PREDIF, Madrid (Spain), 28 May 2014
The following dissemination activity of Fashion-able project was organised in Madrid, Spain, at the General Assembly of PREDIF – State Representative Platform of the Physically Disabled (Spain). In the framework of this event the aims, achievements and current results of the Fashion-able project were presented. The Spanish members of the Consortium demonstrated the configurator that enables people with disabilities to order personalised wearable goods online. With the help of some volunteers the functioning of the configurator and its features were tested at the stage. Representatives of the organisations of people with physical disabilities (some of them wheelchair users) confirmed their willingness to support Fashion-able project and promote the project’s results in the future, so the stakeholders can benefit from the project’s results most.
The following articles were published in Spanish media (national outlets and publications specialized on social topics):
- Comodidad para personas con movilidad reducida (once.es)
- Ropa adaptada: moda y comodidad para personas con movilidad reducida (lainformacion.com) - Ropa adaptada: moda y comodidad para personas con movilidad reducida (eleconomista.es) - Se presenta en Madrid el proyecto Fashion-Able (predif.org)
- Predio presenta el catálogo de servicios accesibles a sus federaciones (periodico.laciudadaccesible.com)
- Ropa adaptada: moda y comodidad para personas con movilidad reducida (insercionsocial.com)


Large-scale public conference, Brussels (Belgium), 15-16 October 2014
The final Fashion-able conference was organised in Brussels, Belgium and was linked to the 3rd PROsumer.NET conference that is annually bringing together professionals, researchers and policy makers in the consumer goods sector. The Fashion-able partners presented the project results and achievements during a separate panel. They shared the experience of testing the developed products during the demonstration campaigns. The Fashion-able video was a strong dissemination tool along with the other promotional materials distributed during the conference. The conference audience watched the very first release of video productions specifically realised by the Fashion-able project and coordinated by Euratex.
Some 60 experts from 13 European countries joined the event to attend inspiring presentations on innovative consumer product concepts and prototypes as well as manufacturing and ICT solutions to realise them and bring them to consumers, most of them resulting from collaborative European research projects such as Fashion-able, MyWear, AddFactor and CTC.
The upcoming political support and funding schemes by the European Commission have been presented. The COSME programme with its design-based consumer goods market take-up action was presented by Jean François Aguinaga of DG Enterprise & Industry. Roberta Salonna from DG Research & Innovation presented the HORIZON 2020 Programme with the FoF research topic for "Manufacturing of Custom Made Parts for Personalised Products".
The project’s panel attracted much interest among research and business community, as the Fashion-able project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme and partners could share their experience in this type of research projects.
The materials from PROsumer.NET and Fashion-able conference are available: http://prosumernet.eu/. Fashion-able videos: http://www.fashionable-project.eu/

List of Websites:

http://www.fashionable-project.eu/