December 7, 2007 4:00 AM PST

CAD software is the new black

CAD software is the new black
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When you think of computer-aided manufacturing, sexy lingerie is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.

But since the 1990s, fashion companies, including those that make delicates, have been employing the kinds of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing, or CAD/CAM, software previously reserved for architects, designers, and engineers.

While pin-bearing seamstresses and mannequins are still used for couture, the maker of clothing bought off the rack is more likely a piece of software.

The recent introductions of artificial intelligence, better animation, and lifelike avatars are helping fashion companies, faced with increasing demands, to more quickly translate 3D visions into 2D materials.

Teenagers are demanding cheap "fast fashion" to go with their fast food, and there are now six or eight fashion "seasons" put out by some clothing lines that look to bring new clothes into stores every two months, said Holly Beum, director of software product management at Gerber Technology, a subsidiary of the publicly traded Connecticut-based company Gerber Scientific.

"We even call our product life cycle management software 'fashion life cycle management' because fashion differs from every other industry, in that we'll have six seasons in a year with thousands of products," Beum said. "If you're building an airplane, you have one product that takes most of a decade (to design). How many prototypes of an airplane are you really going to make?"

fashion software

There are two leading companies offering software in this area. Gerber, originally known for its cutter textile machines, lists such clients as Gap, Liz Claiborne, Levi's, Carter's, Sears, Abercrombie & Fitch, and OshKosh. Lectra is a Paris-based company whose clients include Benetton, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Fruit of the Loom, Eddie Bauer, and Gucci.

Lectra and Gerber each offers modular software packages, designed to meet specific fashion industry needs, that generally range between about $3,000 and $20,000 per seat depending on what modules are included. Both companies offer programs that focus on design, 3D prototyping, pattern making, size grading, nesting of the pattern pieces to maximize use of materials, and integration with automated textile-cutting machines.

"The smaller the organization, the more the person is required to do multiple things and use multiple or many of the pieces of software," said Jerry Inman, vice president of marketing for Lectra.

The software lets companies offer buyers more realistic previews on virtual models before things go into prototyping or production. And fashion engineering even extends into the marketing and brand-creation side of the business.

Lectra, for example, in March released Kaledo 3D Trend, an application it developed with Microsoft to work on the Vista operating system. It allows designers to create 3D animated storyboards from their designs complete with virtual models, photos, audio, and video. The company gives Kaledo 3D Trend away for free, and has seen a lot of interest from fashion design students.

Gerber offers V-Stitcher, a module for its AccuMark CAD program that lets designers evaluate how a piece of clothing will fit on a person by using virtual models. Lectra offers a similar product, Modaris 3D Fit, for letting designers see the fit and movement of a design in 3D and then translating that design into the 2D patterns.

Tailored for globalization

CAM software meshes well with globalization trends. Since the artificial intelligence in pattern-making software requires only the input of measurements, not information on how the garment is to be constructed, manufacturers are free to have their clothes made by labor anywhere in the world, Beum said.

"For example, a pattern development system with the most recent AI will insure that if you have a seam, that the two edges that go into that seam are at 180 degrees," she said.

Other software applications, such as Gerber's Vision Fashion Studio, allow a designer to create original fabric knits or weaves. They then convert that information into direct instructions for a textile mill. The software even accepts scanned fabric images from which to start a new design.

Such fashion-specific software is also helpful when it comes to grading, the process in which a clothing manufacturer creates a specific pattern for each size. While grading is based on a company's size standards, the programs help account for sizing systems and body types that differ from one country to the next.

Lectra and Gerber also have fashion industry-specific nesting software. Nesting, as in any CAM program, determines how best to lay out the parts in order to minimize waste of material.

This fashion software revolution is not restricted to large-scale clothiers. Even the sort of handmade clothing designer you might find on Etsy probably has some programming help.

Other software providers include Colour Matters International, whose CM32 Professional for $4,500 per seat offers weaving, knits and draping plug-ins in addition to clip art and silhouette libraries. The company advertises itself as offering software for small-budget designers, but includes Urban Outfitters, Russell, and Dress Barn among its list of clients. Cad Cam Solutions' FashionCAD, another software application that does pattern making and grading, costs $1,295. PatternMaker Software's PatternMaker Deluxe, for $104, will draft and print a pattern based on the design and measurements entered. And SnapFashun, from the company of the same name, is another silhouette library that works as a plug-in with Adobe Illustrator.

And soon, there may be software for a whole different kind of fashion production: virtual fashion for avatars used in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

Lectra could be considering this type of service for its clients; Lectra Americas President David Rode attended the Moda e Technologia event at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art on Tuesday, where the key presentations involved Second Life and My Virtual Model talking about the interest in brand-name clothing and accessories for avatars. Rode told CNET News.com that he's very interested to see how fashion executives respond to the idea of designing for avatars and extending their visions into the virtual space.

See more CNET content tagged:
globalization, CAD, designer, software product, Artificial Intelligence

20 comments

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Mad Mapping Monks vs UPS
That is interesting. For almost a decade virtual world and game designers have critiqued the idea that 3D standards and tools originating in CAD/CAM should be applied to their markets. The original VRML97 precision was lowered because Bell stated at the time that their was no reason to have that in VR. X3D standard editors put that back to enable CAD and formed a working group for that.

So we see the market pushing against the common wisdom of the experts once again and approaches widely considered common knowledge rot away as new kinds of expertise have different requirement. Consider another related graphics industry, mapping. The legacy systems such as ESRI considered cartographers to be the core user. Now we find just-in-time systems where the layers are being added by UPS drivers who update the map data from their mobile units and the data updates the map providing a higher fidelity at a lower cost than what can be achieved by a monastery of diligent map monks.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mad Mapping Monks vs UPS
That is interesting. For almost a decade virtual world and game designers have critiqued the idea that 3D standards and tools originating in CAD/CAM should be applied to their markets. The original VRML97 precision was lowered because Bell stated at the time that their was no reason to have that in VR. X3D standard editors put that back to enable CAD and formed a working group for that.

So we see the market pushing against the common wisdom of the experts once again and approaches widely considered common knowledge rot away as new kinds of expertise have different requirement. Consider another related graphics industry, mapping. The legacy systems such as ESRI considered cartographers to be the core user. Now we find just-in-time systems where the layers are being added by UPS drivers who update the map data from their mobile units and the data updates the map providing a higher fidelity at a lower cost than what can be achieved by a monastery of diligent map monks.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bah - you can get your own for free
DAZ|Studio has been out for awhile now, and can produce same/
better results... for a base price of $0.00

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.daz3d.com/studio" target="_newWindow">http://www.daz3d.com/studio</a>

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Did you even read the story?
Daz studio is a completely different kind of softare from what is being discussed here. It lacks every single feature that makes the programs being discussed worth paying thousands of dollars for.

Those features are highly technical and specific (to precisely control manufacturing equipment) and based on large amounts of expert knowledge for a specific industry (fashion design, including adjusting a pattern for different sizes - it is not just scaled up linearly - knowing how pieces must be sewn together, and how to efficiently lay out the pieces on a swath of fabric to minimize waste, among many other features - all of which was discussed in the story!).

These things are expensive to implement in software, and also must be tested rigorously to ensure they work properly. These features are also not needed (or wanted) by the vast majority of 3d modelers out there who aren't doing production fashion design. Due to this limited market, the software is even more expensive on a per-copy basis.

This is true of all equipment (hardware or software) used for industrial purposes such as manufacturing or engineering (where, for instance, a building could collapse if the stresses and forces are not modelled correctly). But considering the efficiencies, and often improvements in quality, to be gained in multi-billion dollar industries (or where lives depend on it), spending $20,000 on such a product is trivial.

The point of this software isn't to make pretty pictures. It's part of the automated production chain for efficiently mass-producing real-world products.
Posted by fredmenace (159 comments )
Link Flag
Blender, Qcad, python
...that's what I thought you were going to say.

but this looks nifty.. interesting business model..
--checking for a linux download.

Oh, just the usual OS duopoly. Screw that.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Link Flag
Bah - you can get your own for free
DAZ|Studio has been out for awhile now, and can produce same/
better results... for a base price of $0.00

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.daz3d.com/studio" target="_newWindow">http://www.daz3d.com/studio</a>

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Did you even read the story?
Daz studio is a completely different kind of softare from what is being discussed here. It lacks every single feature that makes the programs being discussed worth paying thousands of dollars for.

Those features are highly technical and specific (to precisely control manufacturing equipment) and based on large amounts of expert knowledge for a specific industry (fashion design, including adjusting a pattern for different sizes - it is not just scaled up linearly - knowing how pieces must be sewn together, and how to efficiently lay out the pieces on a swath of fabric to minimize waste, among many other features - all of which was discussed in the story!).

These things are expensive to implement in software, and also must be tested rigorously to ensure they work properly. These features are also not needed (or wanted) by the vast majority of 3d modelers out there who aren't doing production fashion design. Due to this limited market, the software is even more expensive on a per-copy basis.

This is true of all equipment (hardware or software) used for industrial purposes such as manufacturing or engineering (where, for instance, a building could collapse if the stresses and forces are not modelled correctly). But considering the efficiencies, and often improvements in quality, to be gained in multi-billion dollar industries (or where lives depend on it), spending $20,000 on such a product is trivial.

The point of this software isn't to make pretty pictures. It's part of the automated production chain for efficiently mass-producing real-world products.
Posted by fredmenace (159 comments )
Link Flag
Blender, Qcad, python
...that's what I thought you were going to say.

but this looks nifty.. interesting business model..
--checking for a linux download.

Oh, just the usual OS duopoly. Screw that.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Link Flag
Assyst/Bullmer 3-D and 2-D CAD Solutions
Although Gerber and Lectra do offer CAD software, Assyst/Bullmer also offers a full suite of CAD/CAM software and solutions. Including 3-D design and 3-D to 2-D conversion for pattern making and fit adjustment. Assyst/Bullmer is by far the leader in 3-D animated technologies for the fashion industry.
See for yourself at www.assyst-us.com or contact us at info@assystinc.com
Posted by vernbullock (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Assyst/Bullmer 3-D and 2-D CAD Solutions
Although Gerber and Lectra do offer CAD software, Assyst/Bullmer also offers a full suite of CAD/CAM software and solutions. Including 3-D design and 3-D to 2-D conversion for pattern making and fit adjustment. Assyst/Bullmer is by far the leader in 3-D animated technologies for the fashion industry.
See for yourself at www.assyst-us.com or contact us at info@assystinc.com
Posted by vernbullock (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This Is Actually Old News
This is not really new. A very innovative company in this field is Unique Patterns owned by Unique Solutions (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.uniqueltd.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.uniqueltd.com</a>) who's Unique Patterns does custom patterns for women who sew, and they have an integrated Body Scanner. They use they're own custom CAD software. I think that's a very interesting story. Lectra and Gerber have been doing this for a while.
Posted by Webconomist (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This Is Actually Old News
This is not really new. A very innovative company in this field is Unique Patterns owned by Unique Solutions (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.uniqueltd.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.uniqueltd.com</a>) who's Unique Patterns does custom patterns for women who sew, and they have an integrated Body Scanner. They use they're own custom CAD software. I think that's a very interesting story. Lectra and Gerber have been doing this for a while.
Posted by Webconomist (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More info
I just happened to post something related to this story a few hours earlier. I've updated to include information not included in the piece. Might be of interest to some of you - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1411" target="_newWindow">http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1411</a>
Posted by csven (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Response to CAD software is the new black
I find it hard to believe that Optitex was not even included in this story as well as Adobe and specialized plug-ins for the fashion industry. I have been researching, retooling, teaching and developing coursework in the area for Fashion Textile Design Technology for the last 20 years.

My Post responding to CAD software is the new black
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/fashion-virtual-technology/" target="_newWindow">http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/fashion-virtual-technology/</a>

My Optitex post:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/it%e2%80%99s-a-reality-optitex-enables-total-integration-2d3d2d-fashion-product-development/" target="_newWindow">http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/it%e2%80%99s-a-reality-optitex-enables-total-integration-2d3d2d-fashion-product-development/</a>
Posted by Finn1Flintlock (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not So New
I worked for Gerber in the late 70?s and apart from updates to
the technology, computer advances mostly, things haven?t
changed that much with the design and manufacturing process.
The customised 3D modelling is a recent development
becoming possible with faster and cheaper computers.

I guess this equipment isn?t mainstream knowledge, not many
want know how their clothing is made but it has been in use for
many years manufacturing everything from baseball caps to
shoes and everything that you wear in between.

This article is a bit like saying ?Look there is this new technology
called a car?. Compared to the Model T there have been
advances but it has been around a while now.

Nice to reminisce and catch up with what is around now.

- Mark
Posted by thomas_md (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not So New
I worked for Gerber in the late 70?s and apart from updates to
the technology, computer advances mostly, things haven?t
changed that much with the design and manufacturing process.
The customised 3D modelling is a recent development
becoming possible with faster and cheaper computers.

I guess this equipment isn?t mainstream knowledge, not many
want know how their clothing is made but it has been in use for
many years manufacturing everything from baseball caps to
shoes and everything that you wear in between.

This article is a bit like saying ?Look there is this new technology
called a car?. Compared to the Model T there have been
advances but it has been around a while now.

Nice to reminisce and catch up with what is around now.

- Mark
Posted by thomas_md (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A liitle more research.
I work for Pointcarre. We are also in the CAD business. When you mention leading CAD to the fashion industry, you might want to mention Pointcarre. Not only are we the only CAD computer that is operating system independent (Mac, PC, &#38; Linux), are clients are among the top in the fashion industry. Tommy Hilfiger, Polo/Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, Jones NY, Nautica, Nike, American Eagle Outfitters, Martha Stewart, are all among the vast client list that use Pointcarre software. So please when you write an article concerning technology, use a little technology and research to make sure you have all the facts.
Posted by corey823 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A liitle more research.
I work for Pointcarre. We are also in the CAD business. When you mention leading CAD to the fashion industry, you might want to mention Pointcarre. Not only are we the only CAD computer that is operating system independent (Mac, PC, &#38; Linux), are clients are among the top in the fashion industry. Tommy Hilfiger, Polo/Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, Jones NY, Nautica, Nike, American Eagle Outfitters, Martha Stewart, are all among the vast client list that use Pointcarre software. So please when you write an article concerning technology, use a little technology and research to make sure you have all the facts.
Posted by corey823 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More info
I just happened to post something related to this story a few hours earlier. I've updated to include information not included in the piece. Might be of interest to some of you - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1411" target="_newWindow">http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1411</a>
Posted by csven (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Response to CAD software is the new black
I find it hard to believe that Optitex was not even included in this story as well as Adobe and specialized plug-ins for the fashion industry. I have been researching, retooling, teaching and developing coursework in the area for Fashion Textile Design Technology for the last 20 years.

My Post responding to CAD software is the new black
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/fashion-virtual-technology/" target="_newWindow">http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/fashion-virtual-technology/</a>

My Optitex post:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/it%e2%80%99s-a-reality-optitex-enables-total-integration-2d3d2d-fashion-product-development/" target="_newWindow">http://fashiontech.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/it%e2%80%99s-a-reality-optitex-enables-total-integration-2d3d2d-fashion-product-development/</a>
Posted by Finn1Flintlock (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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