Simplicity, simulation and personalisation are the three main trends driving current CAM/CAM developments. Here, Niki Tait looks at some of the latest product launches and discusses how they are meeting market needs.

Three main trends are driving CAM/CAM developments at the moment: simplicity, simulation and personalisation.

At one end of the market CAD systems are getting increasingly sophisticated - but this is counterbalanced by a growing need for more simplified versions at the other. Instead of the most up-to-date technology, many companies, particularly in developing countries, need cost effective systems for good quality production.

Gerber Technology launched AccuMark Advanced Edition (AE) a year ago in China and India to help manually driven organisations automate their pattern making, grading, marker making and pre cutting operations. It recently expanded its AE offer  to full package companies south west Asia, Mexico and Central America, and is now marketing AccuMark AE globally.

Many other lower cost and uncomplicated CAD solutions are also available. For example, the Polish company Semaco has developed Invetex, a modular technical CAD solution incorporating automatic marker creation for small to medium sized manufacturers.

Simulation improvements
For sophisticated users, the main developments focus on continuous improvements in simulation, including solutions from Browzwear and Yxendis. Assyst is currently working on a prototype for 2D to 3D simulation in conjunction with the German Frunhofer Institute, and is about six to 12 months off an industry offering. SGS Optitex has a similar offering, whereas Investronica is working the other way round, with 3D design peeled off into 2D patterns.

Browzwear's proprietary 3D technology is aimed particularly at e tailers, online shoppers and apparel designers, manufacturers and retailers. The company's three tools - V Stitcher, V Styler and C Me - are based on personalised figure (avatar) technology. Although each is independent, all are fully integrated, as they are now with systems from Investronica, Gerber Technology, Santoni and Koppermann.

The parametric avatar (virtual body) can be modified to most human body shapes. 2D patterns can be input from virtually any CAD system with instructions on which seams are sewn together and how. Layers of clothing, such as a three piece suit, can also be simulated. Virtual garments are then 'sewn together' from the 2D patterns and the 3D image is dressed on the avatar.

Very soon the ability to change seams and fit on the 3D pattern will also be available, and this will be automatically enacted on the 2D pattern. Virtual fabric swatches are 'dragged and dropped' onto the virtual garment and rotated to see differences in fabric design and placement of checks, stripes and embroidery. Stitch types, buttons and trims can be changed, and bindings added.

The fitting analysis tool displays the exact stretch of every grid element over the body, so the design, patterns and grades can all be checked in real time in virtual format before any sample is made.

YX Knit Platinium is the Yxendis company software for 3D knit creation and simulation, catering for plain and fancy yarns, flat and circular knitting. Developed for technical textile designers and stylists, it provides companies with an opportunity to streamline their collections, shorten development times and lower sampling costs.

True 3 D simulation on a computer monitor makes it possible to test a design and alter technical aspects, colours and yarns easily and quickly, taking into account gauge, tension, finishing effects and fibre lengths. The resulting 3D virtual knitwear can be seen from all angles and 3D distorted at will.

Wide-ranging personalisation
The personalisation trend incorporates a wide range of innovations, not just body scanning and the link into made-to-measure CAD. Shirtsdotnet, for example, has developed Internet-based software for tailor made shirts which connects the manufacturer and the distributor.

Using 'Bivosoft' MTO (made to order) software, the customer chooses collars, cuffs, buttons, pockets, colours, fabrics and finishing, all visualised in 2D. Using 'Linosoft' MTM (made to measure), Shirtsdotnet has worked out an algorithm from a database with thousands of measurements of the human body which allows "a perfect pattern grading of every order."

The e commerce front office is online, connected with the e business back office. The numerical patterns, generated through Linosoft, are transmitted to the factories for production.

In another example, Archetype Solutions has developed proprietary software that analyses individual body data to enable consumers to create garments using their own unique style and fit specifications. One of the company's partners is Lands' End, which offers mass customised jeans, chinos, tailored twills and dress shirts on its website.

Hardware developments
The Italian Algotex plotter is probably the fastest large roll paper plotter in the word, printing at 180m² per hour from up to 250 kilo rolls.

For standard roll sizes, Ioline's new FlexJet Inkjet, is an upgradeable high speed, wide format inkjet printer that works with any CAD system and prints at up to 200m² per hour at high resolution.

Nhega's NScan high speed digitising system uses high resolution imaging to capture the exact shape of the pattern. The software then digitises it, identifies relevant lines and notches, and delivers a complete electronic description of the pattern piece, complete with grade numbers. This process is said to be up to five times faster than conventional digitising, according to Nhega, eliminating over 90 per cent of digitising errors. The NScan is compatible with all major CAD/CAM packages.

Printex Technology's Textile Falcon 220 textile printers have been developed for the textile sampling and digital production market. The eight colour variable dot production inkjet printers incorporate the latest developments in piezo electric drop on demand inkjet printing technology, and are equally suitable for short run production printing and high quality printing on swimwear, knitwear and woven fabrics. 

CAD company news
Over the last three years Assyst has been developing 'globalisation tools' that provide all partners in the supply chain with a fully integrated global IT environment. Its new PDM solution, pdm.assyst, is a browser based e collaboration tool encompassing a wide array of functionalities.

Assyst's new Internet-based marker making service is now also available for users of Accumark systems. It allows automatic marker creation with no hardware or software investments except an Internet connection.

Assyst's 'smart.pattern' allows users to create CAD functions suited to their particular requirements. For example, typical repetitive CAD operation sequences which would normally take 25 minutes can be reduced to less than one minute.

AccuMark 8.0 is the latest release of Gerber Technology's industry standard pattern design and marker making software. The company offers two versions of AccuMark - Advanced Edition, for first time users, and Professional Edition for the seasoned CAD user.

As part of its GerberSuite CAD/CAM line the company now offers Vision Fashion Studio, a conceptual design software system from NedGraphics Inc. Vision Fashion Studio contains significant enhancements over Artworks Studio, Gerber's former conceptual design product, yet shares similar functionality, user interface and file formats.

Apparel product life cycle management software WebPDM 4.0 also contains many new enhancements including increased browser functionality, the ability to support Macintosh platforms, enhanced search functionality, and greater ease of integration with other systems.

Under the banner Global Fashion Technology, Investronica Sistemas provides a suite of integrated ERP solutions for the garment Industry. 3D Fashion Builder is for 3D garment design; Invesmark Futura integrates a new automatic marker maker called Automarker Pro; and Easy Garment and Easy Grading are two new products for pattern creation. InvesPM and WebPM are Investronica's new technologies for collection development and management.

Koppermann Computersysteme offers integrated software solutions covering design, PDM and visual merchandising.

Increased functionality of its Tex Define PDM and integrated data warehousing functions mean that all product data, from development through production to delivery, can now be analysed, both internally and externally via the web. Purchase orders can be created directly out of the PDM system. Integrated into the PDM system is Tex Design, which allows staff to access designers' technical data.

Tex Store is a fully integrated, virtual planning and communication solution. From merchandising through to fixture placement, it provides a complete package for store optimisation, including interactive 3D simulations.

New products from Lectra include those to help with prototyping, including digital fabric printing with Sapphire; management of fashion collections and product development cycles along with electronic data exchange throughout the supply chain, (including Prostyle, U4ia, Prima, Colorweave, Modaris, Gallery, GraphicSpec, LectraOnline exchange); colour management and communication; cutting room management (Diamino, Diamino Expert, Optiplan, the Vector Range, Alys, ProSpin, etc); and 3D body measurement/mass customisation.

Nedgrahics' Vision Fashion Studio provides a specific solution for each garment creation step: drawing, sketching, colourways, 2D and 3D texture mapping, technical sheets, collection presentation, and fabric creation and simulation. It has been developed to help visualise ideas, save time, and create clear input for manufacturing and support selling activities.

Nester Software Technologies has added several new enhancements to its Nester automatic marker making/nesting software. Key are auto-nesting for tubular knits and the automatic creation of sectional markers. Of special significance for tubular knits, Nester will automatically unfold pieces in the marker which have been given such constraint, to further improve fabric utilisation.

The new product module NesterPack optimises any marker that has already been created using any CAD system. NesterPack automatically condenses markers or nests, by eliminating unnecessary space between pieces. It takes an existing nest and "tight packs" the pieces wherever possible to reduce the overall length.

Niki Tait, C.Text FTI, FCFI heads Apparel Solutions, which provides independent assistance to the apparel industry in the areas of manufacturing methods, industrial engineering, information technology and quick response.