Computers nowadays are fast enough, and the applications sufficiently compatible, to be able to realise the dream of completely digitising the design and cutting-pattern development processes in practice.
The complete range of software available to the apparel industry will be on show at the up-coming Texprocess show from 10 to 13 June in Frankfurt am Main.
It is not only the virtual-reality freaks that are excited by these solutions; anyone who knows about the rapid pace and enormous pressure on costs in the clothing sector is too. People who get a kick out of numbers and processes, but who can never make head nor tail of any kind of scribble or florid description, are equally keen on 3D impressions of styles displayed on virtual models with or without animation. Whether the creatives, the fashion designers and the pattern developers are entirely happy with it, is a different matter.
Two opposing philosophies
There are two different approaches, both now established on the market. One concept permits the designer to dress a three-dimensional figure – the avatar – in the clothes. A database provides the qualities of the material, such as fall, stretch properties, patterning and colour. When the design is perfect, the seams can be separated on screen and the two-dimensionality of the fabric restored. Corrections are possible both to the cutting pattern and to the garment on the avatar. Changes are automatically transferred to the alternative representation.
The other approach begins with the development of the cutting pattern. The initially two-dimensional surfaces are linked to qualities of the material in the database and subsequently sewn together in virtual space and put on the avatar. If the lines of the garment or the fit are changed, then this is done on the avatar. The software transfers the alterations to the patterns in real time.
The subsequent steps in the preparation of the patterns, such as sizing, seam allowances/cutting lines, notches, printed indications and optimal cutting layout can be regarded as standard solutions, as these have been successfully put into practice since as far back as the 1990s.
Time is money, or 'Time to market'
This development has been driven by the necessity of speeding up the process of design and pattern creation: together with price, design and fit are the customers' major buying criteria. On the one hand, more and more varied designs are required, yet, on the other, the capacity for developing the patterns for them is limited. All the potential savings in production processes, apart from per-minute labour costs and logistics, have to a large extent been exhausted.
This is a screw that is constantly being turned and relates to the development process. Every rejected physical prototype rapidly racks up costs of € 1000. Experts estimate the time saving with the use of this technology at 25% and the reduction in costs at 30%.
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