CAD software compatibility in marker making

In response to Dana’s comment on Where and how to get markers printed, Dana asks:

A few more questions: In addition to Gerber, what other CAD programs are commonly used?

In addition to Gerber, there’s StyleCAD, PAD, Tukatech, Audaces, Lectra, Optitex, and Assyst. A more comprehensive list is here (registration required but they don’t bug you). For small companies, the most popular programs are StyleCAD, Optitex, Tukatech and Pad. Among larger firms, it’s Gerber and Lectra although some inroads are being made by StyleCAD, Opti and Tuka.

Invariably, someone will now ask me which one is best but like anything, it depends and debating which is better has started wars under flimsier pretexts. Yes, I know there’s other programs out there that are marketed as being for small companies but I don’t recommend them (really long story but if it costs less than $5,000, don’t buy it). I use StyleCAD myself. CAD programs are great but a CAD program won’t make patterns for you anymore than Microsoft Word will write a book for you. How some people use CAD is less than great because too many rely on pre-loaded or poorly made templates. Previously I summarized my opinion of CAD templates as such:

As my visitors well know, I just love to disparage the use of CAD templates for pattern making… I’ve made not so subtle implications that CAD is to blame for everything from teenage pregnancy, to decreasing literacy, to intelligent design, onto the scourge of plastic cutlery. Given enough time -and leeway- I’ve been known to link the use of CAD templates to everything from the Black Death in the fourteenth century to the bombing of Dresden. This of course is not to say that CAD isn’t useful -far from it- but if you’re not using the templates that came with your word processing program as is, why would you use templates with a CAD program?

But I digress. Dana continues:

Is there any program that is more common than others and thus has a wider audience? Or is this a file type issue vs a specific software?

If you’re looking for a program that will transfer most commonly, stick with StyleCAD, Optitex or Tukatech. Even if your contractor or who ever is making the marker does not have either of these, these programs have robust support and you can have your files converted easily.

What questions do we need to ask of firms that we hire to do our patterns, grading, markers so that we are certain of compatibility when sending electronic files?

Answering this question is a bit more complex than it should be. Ask both providers what they have. If their blood types match, there’s no problem obviously. If they don’t, ask if either party has a file converter and if so, can they read and convert the files to or from the other’s platform. If that’s not a go, either party can buy a file conversion utility but those can be pricey so it’s not reasonable to expect them to buy one. Also, there’s another matter regarding compatibility. They may not be able to buy a file converter if they haven’t paid their annual support fee. I don’t know what Tukatech charges but it is probably comparable to OptiTex which is about $1,300 a year. On the other hand, StyleCAD doesn’t charge an annual licensing fee at all. Of those on the hook for annual licensing, it doesn’t make them fly by night if they don’t pay the fee but they may not be able to upgrade their package unless they do. A lot of times, service providers have files converted by colleagues who have conversion utilities. To get an idea of what this means, imagine owning a pick up truck that people want to borrow. The point is, you’ll have less problems if you stick with the major platforms like StyleCAD, Opti, Tuka, Gerber or Lectra but this shouldn’t influence your decision to go with a given pattern maker if they work out otherwise. However, if they have certain programs I won’t mention publicly, they’re not a professional.

A couple of operational questions are mentioned above and in the book such as pattern format (hard or CAD), table length, cuttable fabric width, matching issues, plotter size, but to take if from there a few more bits of info would be helpful. How about a mini checklist to add to the subject?

The book really does cover the topic very well over and above anything mentioned on the blog thus far, other books barely mention it if at all. You need to know quantities in each size of each colorway to make the cut order plan (pg. 116 Marker Planning). If you have hard copy patterns, you will need to know allocation (pg. 81). If computerized, the pattern maker should provide that. You need to know how the fabric should be spread namely face to face, one way, one way with nap up or down (pg. 119) and even shading and splice marks. It’d be very helpful if someone(s) would review that section and tell me what they need to know that I didn’t mention.

Previous entries you may find useful:
CAD 101 part one
CAD 101 part two
Why pattern makers resist learning CAD
3D pattern CAD software
CAD: PAD or TukaTech? (I ended up buying StyleCAD)

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