Byline: Stuart Chirls

NEW YORK — One of the venerable names in computer-aided textile and apparel design is getting with the program.
Involved in CAD technology for 10 years, Monarch Computex, a unit of Monarch Knitting Machinery Inc., will begin shipping in April its first off-the-shelf CAD/CAM software, add-ons that can work with other companies’ software.
It’s a radical departure for Monarch, which up until now had only produced proprietary software that functioned as a component of its large, expensive CAD/CAM software systems. So-called ‘open-ended’ programs mean that the software can be used in conjunction with other CAD software, making Monarch’s product more accessible to designers working off of a non-Monarch CAD system.
A Monarch executive said it’s a sign of competitive times. “The CAD industry in apparel and textile design is starting to come of age,” said Charles Eichhorn, systems consultant for Monarch. “Up to now, it was only the bigger companies that got involved in writing software for the soft goods business, but the development of technology and cost factors now mean that small companies can also see the cost benefit of developing products for such a specialized market.”
Monarch was one of the first companies to write CAD/CAM software that could function on any printer, scanner, monitors or other hardware regardless of brand, helping it become one of the most popular systems among textile and apparel designers.
The reasons for this fundamental marketing change relate to size and speed, the inseparable yin and yang of computing. Except in cases of book-length manuscripts, text files are relatively easy to work with and move around. On the other hand, the large color images that comprise the graphic files on which designers work are large, unwieldy objects, and as such, manipulating these files can be an impossible task if the host computer hasn’t sufficient memory or a fast enough processor, the guts of the operating system.
“There’s a lot of information in a color file, more than in a black and white, or text, file,” Eichhorn notes. “The knowledge was always there [to manipulate files], but the hardware for your smaller desktop systems needed time to catch up.”
That all changed with the introduction of powerful new computer processor chips such as Intel’s Pentium series, which give users of desktop computers the speed and flexibility that had previously been available only in larger (and more expensive) mainframe setups. “Just in the past year, we have seen hardware become faster and better for the desktop user,” said Eichhorn. “The hardware wasn’t there until the faster chips came along.”
To give the more modestly equipped user access to its technology — and enlarge its market share — Monarch in April will begin shipping Plaids & Stripes, a program that is designed to plug into Adobe Photoshop, a popular graphic design software program. The program will help designers create an array of stripe and plaid patterns, utilizing Photoshop’s filters and effects tools to enhance designs.
Plaids & Stripes is a flexible program that also includes a library of woven stripe structures that enable the designer to automatically create complex woven patterns; on-screen preview of designs, so the artist can immediately view changes, and the Apple Color Wheel, offering the user more than 16.7 million different colors. Designers can also control the size of the pattern area, number of stripes or threads, direction and spacing, for creative control of an infinite number of design options.
“What we have marketed until now is proprietary software that doesn’t rely on another company’s software to function,” Eichhorn said of Monarch’s all-inclusive CAD programs. “Our intent was to broaden our scope and expand the market and open up aspects of CAD to those people who, because of the cost or whatever reason, aren’t ready to jump in full force. Hopefully, they’ll be ready to jump in with us later.”
Also new from Monarch is FashionFindings, a clip art library of fabrics, trimmings and apparel silhouettes. The library contains more than 175 editable images in formats that are suitable for creating merchandising materials or other graphic presentations. “It’s like having a collection of sketches at your fingertips,” said Eichhorn. “It can save artists a lot of time.”
Rounding out a trio of new products is ColorCharter, a utility that matches colors from any Macintosh application software for printout purposes. Said Eichhorn, “It’s difficult to get an accurate color match because colors don’t look the same on paper as they do on a computer screen. ColorCharter finds a match by establishing numerical values for an individual color’s hue, saturation and lightness. This gives a designer predictable color from monitor to printout.” Like Plaids & Stripes, ColorCharter is nonproprietary and can be used with any Macintosh computer and with any color printer.
Eichhorn sees the expansion of CAD technology as a boon to designers, especially in a down economy. “In tough times, a tool like this becomes even more cost-effective. People can save money on samples, because CAD eliminates the number of samples you need until you get a prototype correct. Designers can also work faster and with more accuracy, and a company can zero in on the final product and present it in the best light.”

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