WESTPORT, Conn. — With the start of the new year, embroidery digitizing software innovators are stepping up to the technology plate armed with programs that promise to be more user-friendly and faster than their previous lineups.
Atlanta-based Gunold+Stickma, Textile Technologies of Savannah, Ga., and Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Hirsch International are among the companies upgrading digitizing programs. Gunold works in the DOS environment, Textile Technologies in Macintosh and Hirsch in Windows.
Gunold’s Integrated Drawing Program combines scanning, editing and drawing. Because the system uses vector imaging, the designs are clear and accurate, according to E.J. Harof, national sales manager at Gunold. Assuming familiarity with the commands, Harof said keyboards are faster and Gunold will remain in a DOS environment until Windows can bypass the speed of their DOS systems. Gunold’s “Integrated” system, expected on the market in January 1996, is also able to copy an image from another disk and place it in their system. With this feature, called EPS Vector Files, once an image is copied, the digitizer can start punching. Harof said this system will cut preparation time by 50 percent.
Despite technological advancements, most systems still require operators to do the actual digitizing of a design. But, in January 1996, Gunold will introduce its Complex Photo Stitch. In one step, the computer can scan various densities of an image and do automatic punching, bypassing the human digitizer.
“You could take a photograph of Grandma at her birthday party, scan it, and the computer will automatically punch it out,” commented Ed Harof, vice-president of technology at Gunold. “You could have it done in two minutes and 50 seconds.”
The system does have limitations for it can recognize only six colors, Ed Harof said. Also, the program will scan an image and then “punch it out the way it should be done. That may not necessarily be compatible with the designer’s wishes,” Ed Harof said.
Despite those drawbacks, E.J. Harof said the system can cut prep time by 80 percent.
Textile Technologies is also concerned with cutting prep time. Spokesman Harold Clayton said Textile Technologies will release its latest software program, Power Stitch, in January.
Power stitch is able to scan an image with lines and curves eliminating some of the preparation time, Clayton said. It can also import lines from a graphics program. With their new software, Clayton estimates an increase of 500-600 percent in productivity. The program’s focus is to make the best possible team between the graphic artist and the embroiderer, Clayton said.
At Hirsch International, the Brother PG-1 DOS-based software program has been updated to a Windows-based software and was released in October. Because of increased mathematical capabilities in the Windows environment, the puncher can digitize in segments rather than stitch by stitch, saving approximately 50 percent in preparation time, according to Hirsch spokesman Ken Parsons. In addition, the new system, which has improved scanning capabilities, will also have Carve Fill, an embroidery replication feature.
“You can digitize one star in multiple colors and the computer will repeat it,” Parsons said. “Speed is the key here. It’s not necessarily more accurate, but it’s much faster and easier to use.”
While computers race towards automation, hoping to hit the next technological home run, innovation in the textile industry faces some hurdles in the marketplace. Both embroiderers and digitizers are reluctant to try new technology, always fearing the loss of an artistic edge.
Ed Levy, president of Stitch by Stitch, a Miami-based embroidery digitizing firm, said productivity has increased at his company since he started using the Brother PG-1 system four years ago. Levy, however, remains skeptical about “too much automation.
“You can’t leave too much to the computer,” he said. “You need the human input — their artistic capabilities.”
Computer software companies understand the hesitation and expect that it will take about three to four years for the 1996 software to become popular.
“You’ll get one or two people to take the plunge, and once the competition sees the increased output, they’ll all want the newer systems,” E.J. Harof said.
And it will take pioneers to capture the industry’s attention. Harry Belcastro, president of Digital Design, a punch house in Savannah, Ga., said, “I can’t wait for Power Stitch to come out. While others will still be on artwork, I’ll be on the embroidery machine. I want the increased productivity.”

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