GREENSBORO, N.C.--Reality is playing a major role in the latest technology being offered by suppliers of computer-aided design systems to textile designers.
Several systems on display at a recent Computer Integrated Textile Design Association (CITDA) conference offered true three-dimensional realism on the computer screen.
Stork Screens America, showing its VDM-2000 Virtual Design Modeling Station, said it was offering textile designers "a tool to model their designs in near-realistic environments."
CIS Graphics showed its dobby design system for weaving, "which is unique because we actually produce renderings in the 3D models to achieve realism," said Richard Ellis, representative.
Sophis USA introduced its Concept Visualizer 3D system, which came about through a joint venture with ModaCAD.
"We have joined forces with ModaCAD," said Glenn Rin-derman, Sophis sales manager. "They've adapted their software for the textile industry and this system enables our customers to put that concept visualizing system on the network with the Sophis system. They can take design simulations, for example, to the concept visualizer and drape them on the furniture, apparel or whatever."
The Concept Visualizer, designed for Sophis by ModaCAD, has full design, merchandising and point-of-sale capabilities. It offers 3D simulation.
Most of the systems shown by more than 30 vendors at the conference offered 2.5-dimensional concepts, which give a 3D effect but are not considered "true" 3D systems.
Although many designers gave the 3D systems high marks for realism, representatives of several major companies believed the systems are currently too expensive to justify and too time consuming.
Katy Chapman, CAD system supervisor in the Springmaid/
Performance division of Springs Industries, said, "The 3D as opposed to 2.5D is a bit out of our league at the present time. It really involves someone with an engineering or industrial design background to actually build those frames in a 3D setting. The time involved in that and the type of computer equipment cost upfront is tremendous. I don't know that our customers would get enough feedback or information from it to make it worthwhile. I think the 2.5D texture mapping on a photograph is the way to go for now until something happens that allows us to do it in a more effective way."
Pamela Leland, image technology specialist, Levi Strauss & Co., said, "In my opinion, the 3D technology that is being shown at the conference isn't quite to the point where it would be usable enough for Levi's to be able to implement it in a fashion that would really help us right now. It's just not something that is feasible with the technology that is out there. We do try to stay familiar with what is happening and position ourselves so that when something does come out that we can really use, we're ready to jump on it."
At a cost of about $90,000 for Stork's VDM-2000, Linda McHugh, Stork Screens' applications specialist, agreed that it is expensive technology. "However, expensive is relative," she added. "This is true 3D. You can actually move all around the room and see it from all angles. It's created with wire frames and then the design is mapped onto that surface, so it is truly three dimensional."
Rich Riley, manager of CAD services, Jantzen, Inc., said, "The 3D technology has its place and I think the industry will get there, but it's still going to take a little bit. Right now, you have to worry about your draping capabilities using 3D with apparel. I looked at Stork's 3D system, but I was more interested in efforts to print on fabric."
Alison Grudier, an industry consultant, agreed that printing on fabric is the next technological advancement for designers. "Instead of doing digital prints on paper, which is what we do now, it is digital prints on cloth," she explained. "It's something people have been talking about for years and experimenting with in limited capabilities. I know several vendors that are working on that technology, so at next year's CITDA show, I expect to see some pretty interesting ways to print directly on fabric instead of paper."

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