As the world’s major clothing retailers continue to narrowtheir supply base and build closer, long term relationships, the importance of making agood first impression has never been more critical. And it is here that advances inCAD/CAM come into their own.


Introduction

Fewer opportunities mean that for businesses in the apparelindustry the stakes have never been higher. “More than everyou have to seize the opportunities that come your way and make every presentation count“,claims Clare Du Mughn, design executive at Martin Emprex (a wholly owned division ofMartin International Holdings).

The company, which supplies men’s, women’s and children’sclothing to leading European retailers, has tackled the problem through a focus ontraining and by investing in the PrimaVision CAD system from Loughborough based PrimaSolutions in the UK. Both have contributed to the recent dramatic improvement in Emprex’sfortunes as the company turned a loss into a profit. And it’s an approach that wasrecognized recently with the presentation of a National Training Award.

Sales have increaseddramatically and we have turned the business around to profitability“,says Charles Jackson, chief executive at Martin Emprex. “Thishas only been possible through our commitment to these training programs and the immenseculture change we have undergone in the last four years“.

A commitment to training is a sentiment shared by PrimaSolutions. Designer Rosie Camps, who uses PrimaVision primarily to generate and developdifferent print ideas and to examine different garment shapes, has been through the Primatraining program. “I’d usedCAD before but not PrimaVision so, when I joined Martin Emprex about a year ago it wasimportant that I got to grips with it as quickly as possible. Happily, the training fromPrima was very good. I had several days intensive training in London and found the systemeasy to understand and use“.

Camps cites a number of features which she finds “particularly impressive. It has a very good repeat and split repeatsystem – in fact it’s the quickest I’ve seen. Changing color combinations is also quickand easy. That’s particularly useful when I have to come up with three different ideas on,for example, a 3-pack of men’s underwear.  The weave representation is very good too- probably the closest representation of the real thing around at the moment”.

However, not only are better presentations and animprovement in the speed and variety of the day to day work critical, but so too is thecontribution to the bottom line. Clare Du Mughn explains: “Themassive variety of colors, weaves and shapes we can produce at the touch of a button savesus huge amounts of time and money. That makes us more competitive and more profitable atthe same time.  The system is of a high enough standard to make clients increasinglyconfident of buying direct from paper samples. This means that we don’t have to go to thetrouble or expense of ‘real’ samples and that the whole process from design to retail isspeeded up“.

There is no going back to the old ways as far as the designteam at martin Emprex is concerned. A year ago the company upgraded its existing softwareand bought two new systems. Now plans are in place to install another.

Prima continues to update its product as well, and recentlylaunched the latest version of its design package, PrimaVision 98. This offers an improveduser-interface, a faster and more flexible means of image data management, as well as arange of other new features developed to ensure that the designer is even more productive.Prima Design expert modules are available for knit, weave, print and photographic drapingpresentation.


Customer Recommendations

Working with customers is also key to the on-going successof Tex-Data Design systems which, this year, has achieved a 50 per cent increase in salesagainst the first 6 months of 1997.

With over 130 Tex-Design workstations installed in the UK,the company’s managing director Paul Noonan is naturally optimistic about the future.”In a time of extremely tight margins it is vitallyimportant to a company to hear that such a major capital purchase does what the salesmansays it does“, he says.

Tex-Design offers “something for everyone” whichis highlighted by recent sales to a wide variety of companies including silk printerBeckford Silks, shirt producer CV Branded Menswear, and Rowley’s, which produces arange of clothing for all ages.

Although Tex-Design is used in a variety of companies,almost all have three common requirements: an easy-to-use system, a system that integrateswith their existing computer system, and one that has a clear upgrade path.

As Paul explains, “Tex-Designoffers all three, from utilizing the simplest to operate Windows user interface, throughtaking advantage of the latest networking technology combined with adopting all the mainfile formats, to maintaining the policy of issuing at least 3 new versions a year.

Paul also sees a bright future for Tex-Define. Inparticular, the current trend for apparel and textile companies to tackle the managementof product specifications has led to a dramatic increase in the number of enquiries madeabout this product. Tex-Define ensures that information flows rapidly and preciselythroughout all departments within a company.


Tailor-Made Creativity

Gerber Technology has realized its creative vision with theintroduction of its Artworks Studio design software.

The new design package brings together a number of triedand tested products, including market-tested modules such as Photoshop (from ADOBE),Designer (from Micrographix), and Painter (from Fractal Design).

We think it makes sense todraw on what has gone before, picking out the best from what is available on the market,modifying it and thoroughly developing it as whole, instead of re-inventing the wheel“,explains Susanne Buss, European manager at Gerber for design systems.

To upgrade its Artworks package, Gerber Technology has alsocollaborated with Info Design, a leading manufacturer of high-performance CAD for thetextile sector. Info Design offers the Vision Fashion Studio design software, from which anumber of key functions have been taken, such as those for simplified and acceleratedcoloring (Vision Easy Coloring), for weaving (Vision Easy Weave) and catalogue and textileprint design – to name but a few.

This means that Gerber Technology has managed to combineits own expertise in computer-aided design with the highlights of cross-sector solutionsand a sophisticated top-of-the-range product in textile software. These come together inthe Artworks Studio package which provides three solutions to cater for the differentdemands of creative departments:

  • The Artworks Standard Edition offersPhotoshop in combination with Art Plugins as well as a series of tried and tested Artworksfunctions. The introductory model also allows the production of storyboards andcatalogues.

  • Artworks Professional Studio combines theStandard Edition with numerous functions for textile print design developed incollaboration with Info Design — as well as for creative coloring, design andrepeats, and technical drawing.

  • In the Artworks Expert Studio, the Artworksand Info Design modules are extended to include the new tools Easy Weave, Easy Knit, andEasy Jacquard. Overall, this is a tailor-made solution for both print and clothingdesigners.

Individual modules are also available from the optionalrange, so users can tailor a solution to produce weave or knit designs, presentationdocuments, or for image processing.


Productivity Update

Improved automation and user-friendliness are features ofthe most recently updated Invesmark-NT Version 5.0 from Investronica Systems. Thisintegrated CAD/CAM system has been available on the market with a Windows 95 interface for3 years.

Invesmark-NT 5.0, which is available from GeoffreyMacpherson in the UK, has been designed to bring maximum productivity to the tailoring andupholstery industries, and is intended “to be operated and managed by specialists intailoring – not by experts in technology”. It also makes use of the most up-to-datetechnological concepts which will allow the system to expand in the future.

Among these items are:

  • open systems and client/server architecture;

  • graphic interface and Windows 95 andWindows-NT operating systems;

  • relational data base (Gupta, SQL Server,Oracle);

  • multimedia extensions;

  • integration in Internet.

The software is an integrated system that supports thewhole garment production cycle from conception through to automation in the cutting andsewing rooms. It can be personalized to the organization and working methods of eachcompany, and supports the most widely implemented standards on the market in terms oflocal area networks, communications protocols, part exchange, drawing files, and cut filesto ensure connectivity with a range of different plotters and cutting machines on themarket.

Some of the fully integrated modules include:

  • PM
    which manages all the technical information related to the product and co-ordinatesbetween all the departments involved in range development, production and quality control.
  • PGS
    for pattern design using automatic construction procedures based on measurementtables.

  • MGS
    marker fitting that allows for maximum productivity and fabric saving in both interactiveand automatic mode. Fitting commands cover all types of fabrics, including plain, striped,checked, and tubular.

  • MTM
    designed for industrial custom tailoring, also allows orders to be exchanged via theInternet and can generate patterns and markers for each customer order.

  • Cutplan
    optimizes the production order process in the cutting room, and helps to minimize thetotal costs of fabric, marking, laying and cutting.

  • InvesDesigner
    a pattern design system that combines the use of traditional tools with CADtechnology.


 Virtual Fabric Collections

Lectra Systèmes, the producer of design solutions for thetextile, apparel and other related sewn products industries, has entered into apartnership arrangement with By Fred Textile Multimedia to develop new and originalsolutions for ‘virtual’ fabric collection presentations.

With By Fred’s ProTissuVision, fabric designers will beable to present their entire collections on CD-ROM – reducing considerably the processesand costs involved in traditional fabric dissemination methods. With this new tool,designers will be able to simply and quickly apply these virtual fabrics to the stylesthey design on-screen using Lectra’s ProStyle and U4ia design software – and instantlyorder the fabrics needed for sampling or production.


Haute Couture Goes Digital

The concept of previewing fashion designs realistically,on-screen, using digital fashion models has been moved one step nearer to reality with anew software product from Kinetix.

Inspired by world famous designer Thierry Mugler, theVirtual Fashion Show software adapts designers’ patterns into the finished articleon-screen, allowing the virtual testing of different fabrics for color or flow before thedressmaker begins work. More than just a design tool, the program is also said to providepotential buyers with the opportunity to see the designs in different fabrics and colorsbefore making a purchase.

With Kinetix, the Virtual Fashion Show project combined theexpertise of leading European animation specialists Infografica, Oxford Metrics andDigital. The resulting product has brought 3D animation a step forward by overcoming theanimator’s nightmare of simulating natural body motion and the draping of clothes.


Integrated Planning

As the need for ever shorter production runs continues toimpact on the European garment industry, ASSYST and Bullmer chose Bellow MachineCompany’s recent ‘Automation For Quality’ exhibition to give the UK debutto their latest fast response systems.

A joint stand enabled the two companies to demonstratetheir ability to integrate pattern development and lay planning with the new generationsingle ply cutting systems. The result, says Assyst’s David Brown, is “improved response times with maximum design and cut quality,production flexibility and long term cost efficiency“.

Based on the latest Hewlett Packard RISC computers, theAssyst side of the system features the company’s AssyCAD lay planning and cuttingcontrol software. Among a number of enhancements to the new-look AssyCAD is its improved‘macro’ functionality, enabling users to eliminate repetitive operations byrecording them into the system for re-use.

Also demonstrated was Assyst’s bespoke ormade-to-measure GoWeb (Garment Order via the WWW) system, which allows customers to visita retail outlet, view garments in a choice of fabrics and styles, and make their choicevia the Internet.

Enhanced MTM (Made To Measure) software can accept datafrom any commercial processing system or from the Internet/Intranet; alternatively it canbe input manually. The pattern is altered automatically then processed for lay planning.The marker can be planned automatically using the latest Automarker software which usesstrategies developed by the user to guide piece placement.

The AssyForm Product Data Management tool has the addedbenefit of Assyst’s powerful and fully integrated design software which enables theuser to produce and modify pictures with ease.

The spreading and cutting aspect of this fast responsesystem is carried out by Bullmer’s Rotary CNC 4001-C machine, a new conveyorisedsingle ply cutter specifically developed for short run manufacturing.

The concept of single ply cutting is gaining favor with theincreasing number of companies for whom productivity and flexibility are equallyimportant. Using this method of production, there is no waiting time for the plies to belaid; and parts can be removed for sewing as soon as they have been cut – even if othercutting operations are still underway.

This means that the Bullmer 4001-C remains productivethroughout the entire working day, smoothing out the peaks and troughs of production andeliminating the need for costly storage and holding areas. Combined with the system’sfast spreading and cutting speeds, this makes it a viable solution for mass production aswell as for short runs.

Among the most important new features of the machine is anew sensor control which guarantees accuracy of the rotary cutter over the entire table to= 0.1mm, resulting in extended bed life, extended blade life and reliable cuttingirrespective of the type of thickness of fabric.

Precision of cutting is also enhanced by a new vacuumsystem which improves the adhesion of the fabric on the cutting table and eliminates theneed for cover foil. Zoned vacuums can be used to concentrate the vacuum at the cuttingpoint, while allowing easy removal of component parts that have already been cut.


High Performance Marker Plotter

For the production of high speed, accurate markers withcompleted lays, automatically wound onto a take-up roll for instant removal to the cuttingtable, the British manufactured ‘Neon’ marker plotter is available from PlotterTechnology. Variable plot widths from 36″ up to 2.2 meters (model dependent) to amaximum plot length of 600 yards can be produced continuously. A number of softwarelanguages is accepted, making interaction with many softwares possible.

The compact units operate within a minimal amount of floorspace, and are engineered to a high standard for reliable 24 hour production. Models inthe range include the Neon 36E, Neon 36, Neon 72 and the Neon 86.