Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why sodaCAD is meant for the apparel industry

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what sets sodaCAD apart from other projects like Valentina or WildGinger. I hope this will clear things up.

It is first necessary to understand how professional pattern makers work. Pattern makers do not spend a lot of time drafting patterns from zero. Usually they draft their essential pattern pieces and these are digitized into CAD. Pattern makers may draft by hand with pencil and paper first or draped in cloth on a form. Some pattern makers work entirely in CAD. These first pattern pieces are fitted on a person or form and are refined. They will contain all of the necessary fit adjustments for a particular size. Regardless, once those initial pieces are drafted, they are stored in a database or file system.

When a new style is under development a pattern maker will pull existing pattern pieces from their file system or database and modify them. A professional pattern maker rarely drafts a new pattern based on measurements because that work has already been done. To repeat it would be inefficient. Once these pattern pieces are modified for a new style, they are plotted out, cut in cloth and sewn. The sewn sample is tested for fit and adjustments are made. Once the style is approved, the pattern pieces are graded and made ready for production cutting. Grading is the process of creating additional sizes from the sample size. Production ready patterns contain all of the notation and specifications needed for cutting larger quantities.

Valentina is primarily focused on what the industry calls Made-to-Measure. The user inputs measurements and the software drafts for you. This kind of thing has existed for a long time in commercial software, but it is very problematic. The software creates a draft for you based on the measurements entered. The resulting draft is based on a complex set of mathematical rules, but the software is not smart enough to recognize the nuances of a particular curve or desired shape. The resulting draft usually requires a great deal of refinement and modification to truly arrive at the desired outcome. Because this process is so time intensive, professional pattern makers rarely use this. Instead, they rely on patterns they have already spent the time to perfect.

The best analogy is to compare apparel CAD software to architectural software. An architect would never rely on blueprints auto-drafted based on the body measurements of the people who will live there. Instead, the architectural software contains automated functions to improve efficiency that allows the user to draw faster and more accurately. The user applies his knowledge and experience to create blueprints that will result in the desired outcome.

The goal of sodaCAD is to have it be equivalent to the software used by the industry, such as Optitex, StyleCAD, TukaTech, Gerber, and PAD. Valentina is equivalent to WildGinger, which is geared more toward home users. You can google those packages to see the differences.

Commercial packages do sell Made-to-Measure modules, but few apparel companies that do use CAD do not buy it. I am not opposed to this function being added to sodaCAD, but it is not a primary focus.