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In Saint-Malo, 3D Tex produces 3D sweaters

Still in training, Lolita learned, at 54, patchwork, reworking the stitches of sweaters barely out of a new kind of loom, like leaves, reminiscent of a futuristic 3D printer. The creators of this start-up, installed since this summer in the city of Saint-Malo, aim to relocate to France a textile industry that suffered from relocation in Asia and the Mediterranean, in the 1990s and 2000s, while offering a competitive product in this competitive market.

(AFP photo)
In Saint-Malo, 3D Tex produces 3D sweaters

€ 150,000 per machine

“We want to rebuild an efficient, zero waste textile industry, while creating jobs. The tool responds to the challenges of the moment, ”assures Basile Ricquier, one of the three founders, before detailing the manufacturing process. 3D Tex receives specifications and a model desired by a clothing brand, which must then be programmed and transmitted to the 3D loom. This machine, valued at over € 150,000, imported from Japan, which has several thousand needles, produces an almost finished sweater.

The knitting time varies from 20 to 80 minutes depending on the complexity of the pattern and the yarn. Then come the hand finishing, like the label, and a machine treatment to stabilize the mesh. Then it’s ironing, before bagging and shipping.

We generate almost zero waste

“The particularity of this technology is that we manufacture seamless products and we do away with this process where we would have to manually assemble the panels to each other”, emphasizes Basile Ricquier. This allows, according to him, “to gain in competitiveness, in comfort and on our carbon footprint, because we generate almost zero waste”, whereas in a traditional confection with cutting of panels, the losses amount to between 10% and 30%.

In Saint-Malo, 3D Tex produces 3D sweaters
Bertrand Helias, production manager at 3D Tex. (AFP)

Another advantage, this technology makes it possible to shorten manufacturing times, with materials from France and Europe, in order to reduce the carbon footprint, assure the managers. The latter aim to have 30 knitting looms for a manufacturing capacity of 300,000 pieces per year by 2026. “The more we ramp up, the more we reduce costs. This will allow us to compete with the Euro / Med zone, Morocco and Turkey, in terms of prices, but with French manufacture ”, pleads Basile Ricquier, who intends to ride the wave of“ Made in France ”, amplified by the health crisis.

According to Fabienne Hindré, from the European Center for Innovative Textiles (Ceti), being based on 3D technology makes it possible to “produce more on demand, without having to launch large quantities”, a new “business model” which can “shake up” the market.

In Saint-Malo, 3D Tex produces 3D sweaters

Proof of the interest aroused, the SME from Saint-Malo, which has around twenty employees, benefited from numerous supports for its launch: the Ademe (Environment and energy management agency), the Brittany region, Pôle emploi and France Relance. And trendy ready-to-wear brands, like Balzac Paris, have already ordered.

“It’s watchmaking! “

Pascal, 54, previously worked as a heating engineer. “Textiles, I did not know at all. For me, a sweater was old-fashioned and there, poof, it falls in one piece! I take care of adjusting the machine, you have to pay attention to the changes of threads, to the power supply, that it is well oiled, it’s watchmaking! He enthuses during a coffee break in the sun.

Adam, 26, is now a bonnet maker: “People ask me: what is it? So I show them videos from my smartphone, ”he laughs. “I am sensitive to everything related to the climate and the ecosystem; so, the short circuit and relocation in textiles, that speaks to me ”.