Disrupting the rag trade with 3D printing

November 22, 2017

Fashion tech entrepreneur Tim Allison is collaborating with Australian PhD students to take 3D printing to the next level.

AMSIIntern

Tec.Fit founder Tim Allison is a business owner bringing cutting edge technology applications to the global fashion industry. Using an innovative scanning app that outputs 3D models and measurements, Tec.Fits allows couturiers and customers to bypass the need to be in the same room when producing customised clothing. Australia’s emerging research talent is now contributing to Tec.Fit’s success.

Tec.Fit solves problems like poorly fitted garments when purchased online. It also offers the fashion industry scalable solutions for bespoke, custom designed clothing like suits, wedding attire and uniforms.

Coming from an international consumer tech background, Allison describes his business as one of the thousands of global companies that are disrupting e-commerce and the designer fashion industries.

Allison is now working with three Australian universities to develop the technology he needs to take his business to the next level by developing next generation 3D printers that can output at scale.

Working with AMSIIntern, a Commonwealth Government funded scheme that rebates engagement with PhD candidates in industry, Allison has been able to engage three PhD students as interns. Tec.Fit is working with PhD candidates from Swinburne, RMIT and Deakin universities and is on the hunt for a fourth PhD candidate to join the Sydney team.

While he knew from the start exactly what skillsets and specific expertise he needed from researchers, it took Allison about 12 months to find the right collaborator.

“I had one professor who said to me: ‘Tim I can definitely do your project – it’s no problem at all – but I am going to need to do eighteen more months of research.’ Eighteen months is a lifetime in technology terms!” said Allison.

Other difficulties he experienced along the way included negotiating with universities on IP ownership and getting priorities aligned with academic partners.

Tec.Fit founder TIm Allison

AMSIIntern Postgraduate Program

The AMSIIntern Postgraduate Program is a unique model for innovation that seeks to connect PhD candidates at universities across Australia with emerging business opportunities. The program builds valuable partnerships between industry and academia to create more collaboration and research commercialisation.

Business Development Manager Mark Ovens says that the AMSIIntern model is all about putting bright students into industry to give them critical workplace skills that enhance their specialist STEM research skills. Ovens describes the program as a stealthy means of uncovering hidden talent that is lurking in the depths of a research school rather than actively looking for work. While there is ample opportunity available, Ovens says that academic institutions can be slow in responding to the opportunities offered by business.

“In Canada, from where this program has evolved, they are placing hundreds of PhD students into industry each year. Around 50% of students have access to industry experience as a part of their doctoral experience. “In Australia the challenge for AMSI is to increase the intern programs per year with industry partners and we need help from all Australian Universities to supply the PhD’s students.” he said.

Ovens said that the scheme needs stronger support from both academia and industry to ensure that current PhD students get the chance to develop valuable industry experience before they graduate. With all Australian universities eligible to access AMSIIntern programs, the scheme provides a unique opportunity for businesses to access research talent.

“There is no employment. Rather, industry partners provide a contract for service and AMSIIntern liases with the relevant university so that the student gets paid a stipend by them,” say Ovens.

“The program allows industry partners to trial candidates during the 3–5 months for cultural and skills fit. At the end of a project they can release students to return to their studies, or if they have completed their degree, they can give them a job.”

Ovens says that the scheme is above all a low risk strategy.

“It’s also low cost with potential high returns as industry partners keep any IP that may result, making it easier to engage with universities,” he added.

Ovens said the project experience of the postgraduate student is at the heart of the scheme.

“Coached by their academic supervisor, industry experience brings new thinking, new ideas and experimentation to bear on challenges that the student must solve – an invaluable, real-world experience that will only enhance their future careers whether in academia or industry.”

Find out more about AMSIIntern here or read some case studies.

– Jackie Randles

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