CARY — A local company’s machine tailored for the ailing textile industry may help make the cramped fitting rooms at clothing stores virtually obsolete.
Cary-based nonprofit [TC]2 (say TC-squared) produces 3D body scanners to assist in the pesky measurement process. And they are doing it cheaper than ever before using some of the same technology that game systems use for motion capture.
According to David Bruner, [TC]2’s vice president of technology development, the company will aim at a broader market – manufacturing machines that retail for $10,000 instead of $30,000. That’s a dramatic decrease; several years ago, the price tag on a new machine was $200,000.
“We’re really going through an exciting transition,” Bruner said. “These new machines will remove some of the cost barrier for smaller businesses.”
Bruner said the company expects to ship 60 machines this year, with an ultimate goal of churning out 100 per year. With annual revenue at about $5 million, the company has managed to reach customers in all parts of the world.
“The domestic industry being at risk was something that motivated us,” Bruner said. “But when textile started moving operations off shore, we followed the U.S. companies.”
With 26 employees in its 20,000-square-foot facility on Dillard Drive, the company also focuses on other areas of the textile and apparel business. But the 3D scanners have become a substantial and sought-after aspect of the business.
“We really see an opportunity to expand this year,” Bruner said.
And it’s not just the world of apparel benefiting from the technology – other uses include medical research and education. [TC]2’s machines are found all over the country in universities for health care research and textile education.
N.C. State University uses one of the machines in its textiles program.
“We’re trying to help answer the question, ‘How do we stay competitive?’ ” Bruner said. “We started to focus on the benefits of mass customization of clothing.”
Traci Lamar, associate professor at NC State’s College of Textiles, said the scanner has proved useful in the classroom setting. The university has been using [TC]2’s machine for several years.
“We’ve found the scanners to be extremely valuable in advancing our teaching, design and research endeavors,” she said. “We’ve used the body scanner in applications ranging from teaching garment fit and pattern development in the undergraduate classroom to creating custom garments for professional exhibits.”
Shoppers may have already run into similar scanning technology at local malls, but Bruner said those machines work under a different business model, aimed at specific retailers within the mall. “Our approach is different and our machines are different,” Bruner said, adding that [TC]2’s design is meant to be cost-effective for a smaller business.
Bruner believes the machines will become a common sight, not just a novelty. Several clothing shops and tailors have purchased machines for custom fitting.
“We believe in the not-too-distant future, with the low cost of the machines, it will be routine to have your body scanned for a variety of reasons. So much of what we do centers around our bodies.”
Bruner said the small company represents a significant portion of the body scanner market.
“A lot of people probably don’t realize how big Cary really is in the 3D scanning world,” he said with a chuckle.