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CAD/CAM for Textiles

‘A wide range of technology is available to textiles teachers’

LIT Printed Fabric

We all know that teachers shouldn’t have favourites but I admit that I do enjoy the CAD/CAD for Textiles courses we run at Intech and Falcon House. This is partly because it’s new territory for me but mainly because it’s great to work with experts and explore new possibilities. The results are typically eye-opening and the sessions are great fun – we aim to make our training informative (of course) but training should be refreshing as well. So what are these possibilities?

Most schools will be using 2D Design already so Textiles specialists should have a fund of prior learning and support to start from. 2D Design can be used to create almost any sort of graphic image or line (vector) drawing, so it’s a question of what sorts of machine can use this data? Images can be printed onto transfer media and printed directly onto fabric using either our Sublimation process or Laser Image Transfer. The techniques are very similar but LIT has the added advantage of being transferable onto almost any material - timber, plastics, metal, etc. - so LIT is a good choice as a whole department resource.

Laser Photo-EngravingBut images are not just for transfer-print techniques. We have developed our LaserCAM machines to handle image (bitmap) data as well as lines and fills making it easy to engrave photo-images onto fabric. Denim is ideal to show up subtleties of shade in the image but plain fabric works well too. The effect can be as delicate as devoire on lighter fabrics or as bold as embossing on thicker material. Some experimentation is needed to get just the right degree of engraving but (if recorded) this experimentation is just what examiners want to see.

Bitmap Image - CNC EmbroideredBitmap images from 2D Design are ideal for CAM embroidery so every child can now create their own unique designs. A single seat of Janome or Brother software will be needed to convert designs into a stitch pattern, but 2D Design lifts the restrictions imposed by expensive machine specific software and the tedium of ready-made designs from memory cards.

Laser Cut FabricDrawing with 2D Design creates vectors and these are what CAM machines need to cut shapes. With this data, our LaserCAM machines will cut fabrics with extraordinary delicacy. This could be used to simulate commercial practice where multiple layers of fabric are cut to produce identical garment components. It can also be used to cut finely detailed shapes for applique work. If the material is first backed with heat-sensitive adhesive film then you have the quickest way ever to produce iron-on applique. Once you are using the LaserCAM, then why not cut bespoke buttons and accessories too?

Our experience suggests that many of these techniques are quite new to Textiles teachers but an area we do know is popular is using CAM knife cutters for applied ‘iron-On’ vinyl. The material will bond well by ironing, but one of our heat presses will certainly speed up production! We supply a vast range of media for this ranging from flat colours and flocks to leopard-skin print. A Roland CAMM 1 GX24E is probably the most popular option but a smaller Stika machine (although slower) is equally effective. By the time the school teams have been badged-up the machine will have often paid for itself.

Our Website and Product Guide are full of examples of how TechSoft can really enhance the possibilities for Textiles but why not check the ‘Training’ section too? There could well be a course there to provide the all-important hands-on experience (and refreshment) for you.

by Tim Elderton of TechSoft, October 2012
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