3D Material Weaving Set to Replace Resource-Heavy Denim, Chino Manufacturing

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With new advancements in material printing, 3D woven chinos and jeans could soon replace traditional, resource-heavy manufacturing.

A new project spearheaded by engineering student Eric Groskamp, in collaboration with Diamond Denim and U.K. design studio Endrime, is setting new benchmarks in the denim industry through the adoption of 3D weaving technology. This innovative approach aims to significantly cut waste and boost denim manufacturing efficiency. Jeans are a staple wardrobe item that saw sales of 4.5 billion pairs last year alone. The technology, according to Groskamp, not only addresses the environmental impact associated with traditional denim production, which includes the consumption of 3,781 liters of water and 33.4 kilos of energy per pair, but also offers a circular path toward a zero-waste and labor-efficient production model.

“It is a new and fundamental tool to tackle some of the environmental challenges that we’re facing,” Groskamp said in a statement. “Besides this, this project shows that it can already be done with standard machinery.” At the core of this technology is the use of an industrial jacquard loom, which integrates the design and production process into a digital workflow. This approach allows for the creation of durable, multi-layer fabrics through a process that translates yarn and fabric designs into a digital map of binding (MLB), optimized with software such as CLO and Adobe Illustrator. The resulting product is a prototype jean crafted from a blend of 30 percent hemp and 70 percent cotton, featuring traditional back pockets with a distinctive 3D woven seam.

Oliver Logan Denim
Oliver Logan Denim | Courtesy

The promise of 3D weaving extends beyond environmental benefits, offering unprecedented design flexibility and customization options. This versatility enables manufacturers to experiment with weave structures for intricate patterns or unique fabric combinations, presenting new avenues for brands to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Groskamp is optimistic about the technology’s potential to foster novel business models and inspire a shift towards more sustainable, on-demand fashion production models.

The new tech comes as Unspun and Walmart announced a new partnership pilot project using Unspun’s Vega 3D weaving technology to create men’s chinos for the retail giant. The bigger goal is to bring 350 3D weaving machines to microsites across the U.S. by 2030.

sustainable wardrobe tips
Courtesy Dockers

Unspun’s Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Beth Esponnette likens the company’s revolutionary Vega 3D weaving technology to Cinderalla — the iconic fairy tale where a gown materializes out of thin air. Unspun’s cutting-edge process transitions directly from yarn to finished garment, bypassing traditional fabric cutting and sewing, thereby dramatically reducing waste and emissions associated with transport and discarded inventory. Walmart has recognized the potential of this innovation and has partnered with Unspun on a pilot project to integrate this technology into their supply chain, starting with the creation of men’s chinos.

“One big problem with the clothing industry today is that because clothing is made before people want it, excess inventory has to be produced,” Esponnette said. Kevin Martin, Unspun’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, and Walden Lam, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, both stress the significance of this collaboration. Martin pointed out the shared vision of localized, on-demand manufacturing as a means to revive the apparel industry within the U.S., while Lam viewed Walmart’s involvement as a testament to the urgency of the sustainability challenge, the efficacy of Unspun’s solution, and Walmart’s innovative spirit.

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