CAD CAM for the Fashion Designer

New Developments in CAD

For the

Fashion Designer


Willard Van De Bogart

Corporate Systems Developer

San Francisco - 1990

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The world of fashion and the world of computers have one thing very much in common. They both change. Keeping up with fashion trends as well as new developments in software for the fashion designer can be a full time job. When CAD first hit the fashion scene in 1987 there were few designers, let alone garment manufactures, who were taking to this new technology. When attempts were made to analyze these new CAD software packages they were usually left for the MIS directors or the systems analysts.

Today all that has changed. The designer is finding a more predominant role in all the decision making within the garment industry in terms of what software best feels like a creative tool in order to design clothes.

In 1989 I had developed a quick an easy overview of all the major players in the CAD field for Apparel Industry Magazine. For the most part all these companies are still in existence. But, like all new developments many of the companies have left, and the ones that are still in existence have perfected their systems, and for those companies that saw that more creativity was needed in the CAD and software field they have put in their bid for market share. An exception to pure market share, and leaning more to the educational side of making available one of the most widely adopted software packages in the AutoCad environment is ApparelCAD developed by Phyllis Bell Miller now teaching at Mississippi State University. The United States Navel Air Development Corp in designing uniforms and protective clothing has purchased ApparelCAD. Soon to be published by Delmar Publishers out of Albany, NY will be a new textbook by Miller titled: AutoCAD for the Apparel Industry. The book will provide a step by step instruction plan for fashion illustration, pattern making, grading, and marker making with AutoCAD. A key feature in Miller's software package is representative as to the general trend in all software packages...i.e. more new features. Miller claims to have 45 new commands which streamline the patternmaking process, and more than 50 new menus which allow easy access to slopers, symbols and many preset text styles. Miller is also offering a complete set of slopers for the misses as well as croquis figures for fashion illustration. Another trend which users will see when they install their new software are new help features. Miller is no exception, and has added another feature to her software called Self-Running Lessons, which illustrate how to grade patterns and rotate shape darts. Suggested retail price $750.00.

As I mentioned at the start, it is difficult to follow every development, but there are new players on the fashion software block that are worth looking at. Before I mention some of these newer software packages I want to mention right off that each package satisfies a particular need, and it is still the most important consideration in any purchase of a piece of software. These needs range from a pure merchandising tool, to a complete CAD/CAM/CIM approach, to just a fashion illustration approach.

In 1987 I was a consultant, and researcher for new garment manufacturing upstart companies, and today I work for Computer Selection, an Apple Macintosh dealership based in San Francisco, providing computer systems to the design industry. San Francisco is the 3rd largest center for fashion manufacturing in the United States spearheaded by Levi Strauss, Esprit, and Jessica McClintok with scores of new boutiques, and advertising a brand new fashion design center. From this vantagepoint I am in constant touch with new software developments impacting the design industry.

The newest product on the market for the fashion industry is SnapFashun developed by Bill Glazer, president of Modability Inc. This product is not to be confused with ModaCAD either. Glazer has been referred to as the Ambassador of California Fashion to the USA and to the World. Glazer is well known for his fashion reports, which are known in the industry as Report West, Europe PhotoBox, Los Angeles PhotoBox, and PhotoBox Men.

SnapFashun is a new software program to assist fashion designers. It is called by some the ultimate "pictionary" of design details with a library of over 3000 design elements that have been proportionately drawn so they can be "snapped" together to create items with great accuracy and speed. Having personally tested this software I can say that this was a tool overlooked by industry developers for the designer. SnapFashun comes with a MAC IIsi, with a suggested 5 MB of RAM and an 80 MB Hard Drive with a 13" RGB Hi Resolution color monitor. The keyboard and mouse are standard, and Glazer is suggesting a Personal Laser Writer printer, and he supplies all the software you need. SnapFasun has three major parts, which include a fashion library, a fashion sketchbook and an electronic sketchpad. Price tag...$7,000.

With SnapFashun, a typical scenario would be to go to the library, and select a particular folder, which has a complete library of a fashion item such as pants or jumpsuits etc. Next, each one of the variations comes up on the screen. The sketchbook section allows the user to tag descriptive information and freeform notes to the sketches, and the sketchpad module has the software SuperPaint developed by Silicon Beach bundled into the program which enables the user to design a line combining the pieces from the library. SuperPaint allows the designer to customize all existing pieces or even draw new pieces from scratch. Glazer provides the user of SnapFashun with a periodic update to the library including the latest trends in colors as well as silhouettes. SnapWest is updated 10 times a year out of Los Angeles and SnapEurope is updated 4 times a year. Granted this is not a full-blown CAD package, but then it was never intended to be. Glazer felt that the designer was the only member of the company that did not have a computer as an aid in the design process. Now the designer can have a vast library with the complete capability of interchangeability with every design item, and the security of knowing that there will be updated trends on the way. For the individual designer not depending on the larger corporation to make all the trend decisions this is a perfectly good option. Not to slight the larger companies the individual designer now has viable patternmaking software to choose from, and at a reasonable price in order to develop the all important pattern pieces. There are three new patternmaking software companies, which are providing, for around a $1,000, some very flexible alternatives to the larger companyŐs patternmaking package.

BetaCAD AD 2.1 is a CAD package that addresses the design need for quick and efficient line development. The Ad package allows the designer to design new designs or copy existing designs. BetaCAD also has a library of the latest designs, and are also available for silhouette development. There is also another module called BetaCAD PDS 3.1, which enables grading, and marker making. BetaCAD is another package, which runs in conjunction with AutoCAD software using either release 10 or 11. It can run on as little as an IBM 286, but requires MS-DOS 3.0 or higher and sells for $1,295.00.

Pattern Works is another IBM compatible software package requiring a 386 with a math co-processor, 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB Hard Drive at minimum. With the help of the developer, Isabell Lott, a great deal of attention to the designers need has also been built into Pattern Works, and again it is so important to have a walk through on any of these software packages to determine if they feel like the work habits you are familiar with. Screen design is a big issue in these packages. Whether or not the software flows intuitively to one step to the next in the design process is usually only achieved when a programmer and a designer work together. Pattern Works is such a package. PC Pattern from Pattern Works comes with a complete line of basic slopers or pattern blocks for men, women and children. There are a total of 501 pattern pieces. And, in keeping with the self-help trends there is also a user guide to the program, which includes the grade rule and actual measurement specifications for each sloper size range. It is even possible to use your own sloper. PC Pattern includes all of the pattern drafting tools familiar to the clothing trade. You can pick pattern symbols, such as notches, dot, crossmarks, and grainlines, from the tool tablet. The cost for this package is $1,995.

In White Rock, British Colombia Lauraline Grosnick has developed CADTERNS enabling the designer to design custom patterns. All the measurements in this package are used directly to draft the pattern. Bundled in CADTERNS is a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet converting all the measurements into a set of points, lines, and curves in the form of a set of input commands for a CAD system. Again AutoCAD accepts these input commands, and will plot the individually drafted slopers on the monitor, or send the commands to a printer or plotter. The major feature nested in this software is the slopers, which are drafted for height as well as circumference variations. All the dart points and dart circles are clearly marked at each dart location, and all the slopers can be previewed on the monitor and styled before the pattern is plotted. CADTERNS provides the patternmaker to make custom slopers, which is essential for specially styled personalized patterns. The work can be ported over to autosketch in the AutoCAD software via .dxf files. System requirements are an IBM pc with a min of 512K RAM. MS-DOS version 2.0 is ok to use as well as Lotus 1-2-3 Release 2.2 as well as version 10 of AutoCAD. In September MS-DOS version 4.0 can be used as well as Autosketch version 3 by AutoCAD. Again in keeping with the trends CADTERNS will offer an optional computer assisted patternmaking Tutorial.

With the exception of SnapFASHUN all the systems have been running on DOS operating systems. Macintosh does have quite an entry into the fashion software market, and ModaCAD, out of Los Angeles, is still expanding its offerings and now introducing retail and merchandising systems. However, itŐs the smaller companies that have specialized in one aspect of the design process where you can see the best refinement in the software. Three examples of this specialization are POINTCARRE textile software for the Macintosh from Quebec, AVL Looms from Chico CA. also on the Mac, and PrimaVision from JN Computer Group in NYC. PrimaVision runs on an IBM 486...the powerhouse computer at the PC level.

Again, I want to stress the trend of simplicity, and ease of use in the using of the software. If itŐs not ease of use, its intuitive software that provides the designer with elements that are used in the design process for that particular specialty area. For example, PrimaVision is one complete package for print/woven/ and knit design. With this package there is automatic color groupings of the scanned image. This feature is further developed whereby you can even change the multiple colors as well as all the color fill patterns. What this software is emphasizing is color change quick and simple.

PrimaVision even has a module called "Color Combo Generator" which automatically allows the user to review the pattern in all possible colorways. Now that's convenience. And to make easy even easier PrimaVision has developed another module called the "Automatic Fabric Construction Generator" with any yarn creation. The software also employs automatic color separation on film for silk screening. This system is up in price running at $40,000 and runs on an IBM 486. Naturally this is a long way from the 286 we mentioned earlier, but then those prices were in the $1,000.00 range. The one interesting feature with PrimaVision is there are no commands/menus to call up. All the commands are in English on the design screen. So as you can see this trend of easy to use as well as new techniques for the intuitive designer is well along the way. Perhaps all we will need to do in the near future is simply talk to the computer.

The small company is not so small anymore, and here I am referring to POINTCARRE the textile software package for the Mac. I have reviewed this system in the past and was always impressed with their graphics module. For those with impeccable memories you may recall that POINTCARRE is able to move any graphic image you may draw on the screen an use that image as a fill in any pattern piece that is designed. The format of these patterns can be defined to the nearest pixel. The graphic functions such as selection, redimensions, rotations can all be programmed to the nearest pixel. The same pattern can even be displayed with various display methods in several windows. For example through one window it can be seen with a zoom, through another normal, another in actual size, another in reduced size, and another with a repeat function. POINTCARRE has their expert shaft weaving module, the Jacquard Weaving Module and the Printer Module using the Canon colors FP 510. Two new modules are the Outline Module and the Simulation Module. In the Simulation Module all the graphic tools and the data library allow the simulation of textile images. With the use of creating personalized tools, another neat feature with POINTCARRE, the designer can better respond to all these simulation requirements. So for unique graphic capabilities, personalized tools and a host of new ways to create weave patterns POINTCARRE is a lot of fun and it gets the job done. AVL LOOMS from Chico, Ca. is one of the fastest trend setting textile software companies in the United States. Running on a Mac., and headed by Peter Strauss AVL is now featuring a new software package called "SuperColor 'IN'. This color package will work also with the weaving module, knit and print as well as doing limited modeling. One very unique feature with AVL LOOMS is that they work very well with SnapFASHUN. The sketches are transferred from SnapFASHUN to AVL's software. Then a pattern can be created in AVL and mapped and even modeled with AVL's software. Another unique feature is that besides all AVL's interfaces to the Cannon FP-510 and CLC 500 the software works with all chooser level printers as well as the Canon Bubble Jet AJ-1 allowing one square yard printouts and the CLC-10 which is a 400 dpi (dots per inch) ink jet copier all for under $10,000. Again I can not emphasize the observed trend of interchangeability, bundled software, ease of use, and innovative design tools.

It would truly be great if a designer one-day could communicate with all software packages by modem. The larger players are still there. Gerber Garment Technology, Microdynamics, Investronica, Computer Design Inc, Shima Seki USA, Info Design USA, Lectra Systems, and by the time this goes to print I would guess a few more companies will be making their entries. The larger companies also have high-end CAD workstations as well as the PC CAD workstation, and changes have been many with both workstation environments.

For example, HABERDASH is no longer sold by the Mechanix Corporation, but by Microdynamics. Microdynamics has expanded into its MicroDesign product line. Microdesign is simultaneously developed by three companies: 1. Time Arts (Lumena is the base software) 2. Microdynamics owns Lumena source code so therefore verticalizes Lumena for apparel and textile design and 3. Haberdash is the textile specific portion of the package including over 500 tools for woven, print and knit design applications. HABERDASH now has the new Yarndye groups. The Weave Set in the Yarndye group features and expanded range of twill constructions. There are also a complete range of Satin stitches with the Weave Set. A remarkable advancement made by the designer Nansi Weil, and her partner Keith Bickett are Two Leno stitches that have been added to the weave library. The finished image combines shadings of the colors, creating the illusion of air and "over" and "under" weaving. And one more feature among many is the new Pointelle stitches, which are a new set of cells in the knitcell path. With the Pointelle cell you can create your own template in the desired stitch size.

Micrdynamic is known for their MicroDesign and have now released version 3.10A. Again a host of new features are being made available to the designer. An interesting tool which reminds me of POINTCARRE is a tool called GridBrush which allows the designer to paint in a grid. This tool is great for creating a sweater look. Another useful tool is the called Droptool & Shiftscreen. Droptool allows painting in one of four drops: 1/1.1/2,1/3, &1/4. Shiftscreen allows you to shift the image left/right or up/down. This is a very easy way to create quick repeats. So as I mentioned earlier the ease of use as well the innovative techniques is expanding. MicroDesign's MultiPrint function allows the designer to print an image in any scale, regardless of the printer used. I wish I had space to list all the features with MicroDesign, but now lets turn our attention to Computer Design Inc., the company that has pioneered the 3-dimensional image.

Computer Design Inc.Ős software runs on the powerful Silicon Graphics workstations and also offer a PC version called Design Concept 2D as well as the high end workstation module called Design Concept 3D. For those who have not sat down in front of Computer Design software its hard to convey how utterly fascinating this software really is. For many, 3-Dimensional computing may seem far off in the distant future, but for this Michigan based company 3D workstations are the norm. Having sat in front of this system I have found their 3D Pattern Flattening the most impressive. This module will automatically create a 2D outline from a complex 3D surface, this 2D pattern piece can then be passed to nesting systems which can drive automatic cutters. The 3D Drape Simulation is the best in the industry. 3D Drape gives the designer the ability to accurately create the 3-dimensional shape of a model fabricated from various flexible materials. All the 3D modules are impressive. For the individual designer the price is out of the question, but for a competitive edge in being able to accurately visualize the garment before it goes to manufacturing, and then to market, 3D will be the norm rather than the exception.

Gerber Garment Technology Inc has been developing some significant advancements with their own design software. Late last year Gerber unveiled the AcuMark Silhouette. Gerber has likewise become very innovative with the developing of production pattern making software. AcuMark Silhouette allows the pattern maker to drape pattern pieces after they have been fully drafted on the screen. AcuMark is a formidable tool in utilizing the full power of the computer to design patterns as well as see their shape. The specific tools which come with AcuMark are: Seam allowance creation, Pleats and Dart modification, and all the necessary pattern symbols. The final patterns can be immediately cut or plotted on the new AcuPlot 700. A new higher speed plotter is also available called the AcuPlot 310 and handles 24 cm or 9 3/4inch rolls or paper, and can run continuously for 100 hours.

Pattern Data with AcuMark can be used as Pattern Design System (PDS), grading, markermaking and costing. The draping function is naturally the high light of AcuMark.

Another aid to AcuMark Silhouette worth noting is the AcuMark Scan 100 which is a 91.5 cm (36 inch) wide system that can scan at speeds of 2.5 cm/sec or 1in/sec, and is precise as manual digitizing. AcuMark Scan 100 is very valuable in a sample room where many styles must be produced in a short period of time. Another feature of AcuMark Scan 100 is regardless of the orientation of the pattern parts when placed in the scanner it will read all the grain lines automatically. Certainly these tools take full advantage of computer technology. Any designer who has gotten experience with some of the smaller pattern making software should have no trouble when asked to work on the AcuMark Silhouette.

The Spanish entry is of course Investronica and new commands and tools have been developed for Invesketch Designing & Illustration system. Investronica is a total package of hardware and software subsystem of the larger CAD capabilities Investronica offers the Apparel industry.

Investronica has developed their capturing of live images for eventual editing on the Invesketch system. The tools are not unlike many used in other systems. The detail to the full capabilities of the different tools is something Investronica has been working on. For example, the brush tool allows the user to control the way the colors are deposited for sample smearing, stretching, watercolors, stripping, airbrushing or even distributing a "color run".

The mask tool is very useful. It allows a mask to protect an area from being drawn on, or to treat it like a cut and paste function so common in the Macintosh software. In image processing there is a "pasturize" command allowing the reduction of the number of colors on a drawing. Naturally, once a designer enters one of these workstation environments it will become necessary to master that particular system. The comments I have been making about all these systems merely indicate the various capabilities that are being refined by the developers.

Lectra Systems from France has improved their workstation 350+ environment. Their screen resolution is now 1280 x 1024, and their multi-windowing function allows the changing of windows with the hit of keystroke. The draping has been made easier with the addition of an automatic calculation of contour shaping of a fabric simulated on a torso in 2-D. Then its possible to apply fabric and fabric design or motifs with a click of the mouse.

Shima Seiki USA has created Mesh Mapping for 3-dimensional data. Mapping can now be done with shaded sections of an illustration or of a photo. This technique simulates a more realistic 3-dimensional texture. The Design Sketch module of Shima Seki allows for two types of drawing methods. The color scanner as well as the cordless stylus which can in turn be used directly on the screen using any one of a number of tools selected from the screen menu.

At this point all the details and innovations could go on forever, and if I have not elaborated on each system more thoroughly its only because there is simply not enough space.

In summary its important to realize given the opportunity to see so many systems that they are becoming tailored to the designers intuitive sense of beauty and creativity. I realize its impossible to travel all over the world to see these systems, and many schools today do not even have the budgets to buy the larger systems or even a smaller system. Therefore, I have concentrated on the smaller systems, which in truth seem to be offering more design options due to the high concentration on the system at hand. Color, ease of use, multi-tasking being able to use more than one software package at one time, and innovation in screen tools are all impacting on the ease of entry into this very exciting field of computer design for the apparel industry.

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