Embroidery machinery and software suppliers continue to pack their machines and programs with more tools and expanded functions focused on ease of use and efficiency writes Lola Howle, Bobbin correspondent.

The year 2000 may have been a milestone on the calendar, but for the world of embroidery, it was one of subtle adjustment and enhancement to an established technological base. While it remains to be seen whether 2001 will bring more dramatic developments, many in the industry have suggested that few "new directions" are left uncharted in the popular market for thread-embellished apparel and accessories.

Using the Bobbin Americas 2000 trade show as a gauge, for instance, it was evident that embroidery industry suppliers continue to concentrate on adding functionality and convenience to existing embroidery machines and software systems, rather than striking off in any completely new directions. Still, new additions to their lines offer many benefits to embroiderers and embellishers who are trying to improve production efficiency, expand design capabilities, and generally streamline their operations while making them more flexible.

More memory, larger sewing areas
For embroidery machines, the emphasis tends to be on expanding versatility rather than continuing to push the envelope on production capacity and sewing speed, although those factors are being tweaked in a few cases.

For example, Barudan America's newest model is the single-needle, single-head B2000. It sews at 2,000 stitches per minute (spm) and is designed for heavy-duty monogramming work.

Barudan America's newest model is the single-needle, single-head B2000

A built-in monogramming system allows this operation without additional investment in hardware or software, using the machine's own keyboard and monitor. It makes switching to different monograms possible in a short time without reprogramming the machine. With 400 kilobytes (kb) of memory, the B2000 doubles the font memory capacity of previous Barudan machines, says Thaddeus Badowski, site project manager/engineering services at Barudan America's Solon, OH, location. In addition, the unit processes at least three times faster than previous machines and has a built in design preview feature.

"The sewing surface is able to remain smoother at the high sewing speed because, on this design, the pantograph is moving up and down and side to side while the needle zigzags to produce the rest of the thread motion to create the design. The model also contains much improved diagnostic functions," Badowski added.

With similarly specific uses in mind, Tajima has introduced Jumbo Design embroidery machines in its V series. The TMFX-VG1212 can run 12 heads for a sewing field of 1,200mm by 550mm, or convert to six heads, thus enlarging that field to 1,200mm by 1,100mm.

Another new machine, the TMFXIII-1202, sews a field of 1,200mm by 600mm when employing two sewing heads, and 1,200mm by 1,200mm with just a single head activated. Each machine offers 12-needle embroidery capacity, stepping (pulse) motors for noise reduction, Tajima's original Z-drive frame system for precise operation and speeds that can reach 1,200 spm.

In addition, the company has released its flatbed model TMFX V-G1515, featuring 15 sewing heads, optional larger monitor and touch-panel controls, quieter operation, maximum speed of 1,000 spm, accurate pulse motors, design display screen, joystick controls, trace functions and a 1.14-million-stitch memory.

Moreover, Tajima's TMEX-C series includes new arm-type cylinder models designed for quick response embroidery applications and productivity at high speeds. This series is fitted with Tajima's newest slim cylinders, easy frame exchange systems and expanded memory equal to that of the TMFX V-G1515. This Tajima line offers either eight or six heads sewing at 900 spm. Engineers for the company report that all new machines will incorporate the same electronics, frame drive, cards, software and panel configurations as the new TMEX-C series line to allow more precise operation and easily interchangeable elements.

In new Happy embroidery machines, which are distributed by Texmac Inc, there is the model HCGX-1506-45TTC. This six-head embroidery machine can be equipped with either 12 needles or 15 needles per head, covering an area of 450mm by 500mm with stitching. The machine can also accommodate wide and semi-wide cap jobs. Its maximum production speed is about 900 spm, but its memory can hold 259,000 stitches on a built-in disk drive unit. The model comes with a PC connection port and rotary thread-break detection device.

Design software: programs encompass more tools
On the software side of the industry, graphic technology continues to refine the vector-based systems eagerly accepted by embroidery designers over the past few years. While debuts of entirely new software systems are rare, releases of upgrades and add-on modules that increase functionality are occurring at a rapid pace.
For example, Capital Automation Information Systems (CAI) has developed the SEDS Mobile digitising systems, built to run on

Windows-based laptops or desktops with a USB or parallel port. The top-of-the-line SEDS Mobile Insignia system comes with a long list of features and related services, including: lifetime free technical phone support; free online video tutorials; 3-D globe special effects; stitch sculpturing; fancy radial stitch; three types of fancy pattern fills; gradual fill tools for smooth gradients; printed simulation of designs; catalog output into HTML format; design output in most machine formats; and all of the features of the SEDS Mobile Imagine system. The Imagine package includes: digitising; editing; bleed/jagged edge effects; object inheritance with auto borders; a photo embroidery function; TrueType iFont lettering; and automatic digitising functions.

Another enhanced program, Punto 4 from SofTeam USA, features the new Punto Letter Plus element. This embroidery lettering software comes with 57 font sets, plus the capability to: import all expanded formats; scale, rotate and change colours; manipulate lettering with proprietary technology; and output to files or to embroidery machines. It designs in Punto format (programmed effects and other design information remain embedded within vector-based outlines), and has the ability to edit and resize while preserving accurate densities, shapes, stitch lengths and stitch effects. Also included in Letter Plus is the Color Thread Wizard utility for matching digitised colours with various major thread manufacturers' color cards. The Punto line of products is compatible with both Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

DG/ML Version 6.0 is the newest digitising system from Tajima America and Tajima West. Its revised functionality is aimed at increasing user productivity. The three key elements of the system are focused on: communication (support and data transmission over the Internet); information (machine networking, importing images from scanners or digital cameras and exporting data to disks or printers); and creation (digitising, lettering and editing). New features include: the Object (Block) List for sequencing and grouping elements within designs; Auto Appliqué; Fill Holes to fill in complex fill objects without redigitising the outline; Curve Line Fill; a pop-up menu; networking capability; upgraded lettering; a name merge function; and TrueType font conversion.

At Gunold Technology, the emphasis is on meeting digitisers' demands for improved production of embroidered lettering. The new WINgs FMX program allows digitising and editing with special emphasis on the ability to: digitise; edit; add backdrop images from pixel or vector formats; create custom fonts; attach designs to e-mail; align, group, ungroup, join and break blocks of designs; and manipulate stitch types and their various characteristics. In addition to the full FMX package, Gunold's new WINgs FontMachine enables users to produce satin stitch fonts and manipulate blocks and stitches within designs.

Management software: expanded networking functions
Not all embroidery software developments are centered on design creation. Suppliers are also addressing the need for machine networking, online communication and business management.

For instance, Brother International Corp has unveiled a networking system that links more than 100 Brother embroidery machines to one controlling computer. Any operator can pull designs from a central design database and send them to specific machines on the shop production floor.

Jobs can be timed and organised on a schedule or sent randomly, even from a remote location. The software also produces time-stamped production reports for each machine, noting performance rates or problems. Production progress can be viewed in real-time from the host computer. The new system is compatible with the Brother BES series of machines, including models 916, 1216, 1241, 1261 and 1263. Upgrade kits are available for the 1240, 1260 and 1262 BES series models.

Networking is also a major component of new systems development at VeriStitch. At Bobbin Americas, the firm set up a wireless network in the Barudan America booth using the VeriStitch Delta Monogram Control System. VeriStitch demonstrated how job specifications can be keyed in at one computer, and then transmitted to an embroidery machine for viewing and sewout. Production records can be transmitted back to a main database for tracking efficiency and creating/adjusting shop schedules.

Optional VeriStitch software allows files to be stored in Compucon (XXX) format as well as in the T01, T03, DST and DSB formats. The remote job viewer and remote job manager features can be accessed from anywhere in the user's network, and fully rendered rub sheets can be printed as well. Barcode technology also adds to the productivity of the system. In addition, Delta's Data Server will offer TCP/IP-level support to link multiple remote design databases to a single import location over the Internet.

Likewise, Hirsch International Corp is focusing on both the Internet and shop management. The company has released the Passport Business Manager software by Pulse Microsystems. Specifically designed for embroidery shops, the software covers design management, design variation, customer and supplier database management and supply/garment inventory control, to name a few features. (See "Technology spotlight: software and systems," click here)

Pulse Microsystems has also unveiled a cutting edge program called Stitchport.com, which allows users to create personalised designs online, and fills orders via the Internet with direct delivery of designs to embroidery shops. This software (also distributed by Hirsch) is ideal for small, custom embroidery orders, which are a rising trend in the industry, Pulse reports. "Our idea is not to just simplify the process," emphasises Brian Goldberg, president of Pulse Microsystems. "We expect to increase the amount of embroidery business overall because the whole process is easier to complete."

In retrospect, the overall emphasis of embroidery technology on the market supports this same hypothesis. New markets and increased volume for embroidery shops of all sizes and locations are being nurtured by equipment and software systems that smooth the flow of the process from order taking to design creation to production scheduling, delivery and beyond.

It will be interesting to see how embroidery industry suppliers continue to enhance their offerings in 2001, and what new products this year will bring.

Lola Howle is editor of EMB - Embroidery/Monogram Business magazine, which is a Bill Communications publication, as are Bobbin and La Bobina magazines. Based in Coppell, TX, EMB has been the product and information resource for more than 26,000 embroidery professionals since 1994. For more information or to qualify for a free subscription, visit www.EMBmag.com.