Saint-Malo (AFP)

"I hallucinated when I discovered these machines".

Lolita, who recently worked as a cleaning agent, is still surprised to see sweaters made in three dimensions at 3D Tex, an SME based in Saint-Malo, which presents itself as the first knitting factory of this type. in France.

Still in training, this employee learns patching at the age of 54, 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, have the ambition to relocate to France a textile industry which suffered from relocation to Asia and the Mediterranean in the 1990s and 2000s, while offering a competitive product on the market. this competitive market.

"We want to rebuild an efficient textile industry, zero waste and creating jobs. The tool responds to the challenges of the moment", assures Basile Ricquier, one of the three founders, before detailing the manufacturing process.

An employee of the PME 3D Tex adjusts a 3D loom, September 17, 2021 in Saint-Malo JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER AFP

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, worth over 150,000 euros, 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.

"The particularity of this technology is that we manufacture seamless products and we do away with this process where it would be necessary to manually assemble the panels to each other", underlines Mr. Ricquier.

Basile Ricquier, one of the three founders of the SME 3D Tex, shows a sweater made on a 3D loom, September 17, 2021 in Saint-Malo JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER AFP

According to him, this allows "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%.

- "it's watchmaking" -

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 thirty knitting looms for a manufacturing capacity of 300,000 pieces per year by 2026.

"The more we ramp up, the more we lower costs, this will allow us to compete with the Euro / Med zone, Morocco and Turkey, in terms of prices, but with French manufacture", pleads Mr. Ricquier, who intends surf the Made in France wave, amplified by the covid crisis.

An employee of the PME 3D Tex adjusts a 3D loom, September 17, 2021 in Saint-Malo JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER AFP

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.

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.

Trendy ready-to-wear brands, such as Balzac Paris, have already ordered.

Pascal, 54, previously worked as a heating engineer.

"Textiles, I did not know at all. For one me, a sweater was old-fashioned and there, pouf, it falls in one piece! I take care of adjusting the machine, you have to pay attention to the changes of wires, food, that it is well oiled, it is watchmaking! ", he enthuses during a coffee break in the sun.

An employee of the SME 3D Tex checks the quality of the sweaters taken out of a 3D loom, September 17, 2021 in Saint-Malo JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER AFP

Adam, 26, is now a hosier.

"People ask me + what is it? + So I show them videos from my smartphone," he laughs.

"I am sensitive to everything relating to the climate and the ecosystem, so the short circuit and relocation in textiles speaks to me".

© 2021 AFP