CAD System and Its Application in Garment & Fashion Industry

Computer Aided Design (CAD) has been a boon for designing and manufacturing industry allowing efficiency and productivity which a normal pen-paper design can never compare with. The CAD system and its tools have become an essential component of garment manufacturing - fast fashion makers, designers, even traditional fashion manufacturers now own a CAD system. In this article, we are going to look at how the implementation of CAD technology has revolutionized the textile and garment industry. When you read this post, you will get to know -
  1. About the CAD System
  2. History of the CAD Software
  3. Basic features of an apparel CAD system
  4. Benefits of CAD software
  5. CAD Solution providers
  6. Different types of CAD systems based on its application area
  7. Factors to consider before installing a CAD system
  8. CAD Pricing (Approx data)
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I remember the first time when I used CAD in my college. It was so mesmerizing just to see how specifying some color along with the weaving pattern in the software would give the final look of the fabric and that design, if needed, can also be transferred to a silhouette of a croquis for a better understanding of the garment which I also did with the software. Have a look at one of my assignment which has been done entirely on COREL DRAW.

Introduction to Computer Aided Design (CAD)

CAD is a set of software tools compiled in a computer application to assists product designer in creating a virtual representation of the artefacts they are designing. It helps in giving dimension to any design, experimenting changes on it, configuring the design according to needs, archiving the design, exchanging of data and information related to the design between teams and organization, adding progress of the designs for future analysis, assisting tool for product manufacturing by means of a computer system which may include both hardware and software.

The long and cumbersome process of designing has now been converted to a mere simple process on a computer system. CAD can be used to design curves and figures in two-dimensional (2D) space; curves, surfaces, and solids in three-dimensional (3D) space. Even a 2D design can be converted to 3D for a better representation of the design.

The output of CAD conveys information, such as materials, processes, dimensions, and tolerances, according to application-specific conventions.

CAD history in the apparel industry

At the beginning of modern fashion industry in the 19th century, with Charles Frederick Worth who in 1858 designed his first label sewn in a garment that he created, the means by which the designer created their designs had been with pencil and a paper. But with the change in society and culture, the main challenge faced to this process was the increasing demand for design variation, frequent change in styles and customer taste in the market. This became the reason for alternate solutions which would be like an aid to the design and manufacture process.

The application for CAD came when computer designing had come to a level where it could be incorporated in the apparel industry. With CAD there came a revolution in designing industry wherein a week’s work could be done within a day. Now CAD programs have become an essential tool for fashion designers, garment manufacturers and export houses etc. with functions such as pattern making, virtual test fitting, pattern grading, marker making etc. Garment makers have been able to reduce production time many folds by using a CAD system.

Features of a CAD Software

The application of CAD is vastly incorporated in various types of industries ranging from manufacturing, aerospace etc. to designing of garments, textiles, machines, layouts, architectural structures. The application of CAD software is thus based on certain features of it which can be classified as:

1. Solid Modeling: 
With CAD solid components of desired shapes can be made virtually by joining, cutting, trimming different solid volumes. The final solid model comes out to be an exact replica of the actual shape, but it can also be seen and rotated like the real product. It even allows us to get inside any 3D model to inspect it from the inside. With this, any model can be constructed using parameters like measurements, physics etc. and can be edited at any point of time be it undoing or modifying it keeping the original as it is.

2. Surface Modeling: 
With CAD, solid components can be given texture, details by trimming, stitching and joining different surfaces to create the final shape of the model.

3. Assembly:
With CAD, assembling of the models created in solid or surface modeling can be done to get an overview of how the product will look in the final assembling allowing us to make changes accordingly. It is also used to see actual fittings and the working of the assembled model.

4. Drafting details: 
3D drawing can also be created from a 2D drawing of the components or assemblies only by providing the parameters and dimensions.

5. Reverse Engineering:
Real components of any design can be converted into 3D CAD model with instruments like laser scanner, white light scanner, CMM (coordinate measuring machine) etc. The CMM machines are used to measure or decode the shape of any real model. The virtual model created can be used for any modification purpose, shared, and documented. Later it is updated to the final model.

Benefits of the CAD Software

The CAD software is being used on a large-scale basis by a number of engineering professionals and firms for various applications. The most common application of CAD software is designing and drafting. Here are some of the benefits of implementing CAD systems in the companies:

1. Increase in the productivity of the designer
With the use of CAD, software designers are able to visualize the final product, constituent parts of it, assembly process and it also helps in synthesizing, analyzing and documentation of the design. Along with conversion from 2D to 3D, the software also helps in giving animations to product and this will help the designer on how the design will work and thus allowing to make immediately make any modification according to it. All these factors and features will help in drastically improving the productivity of the design, speeding up the process, lowering design cost with shorter project completion time.

2. Improve the quality of the design
With the CAD software, the designing professionals have better options for various design tools that will help in easing up the process of designing like mirroring, accurate shapes etc. along with thorough engineering analysis of the proposed design. The tools also help designers to perform inspections on the design for any errors. With CAD the accuracy of the design increases drastically reducing errors thus leading to better and accurate design. With a lower number of errors and better availability for references, the manufacturing process becomes much faster with reduced wastage which could have been due to faulty design.

3. Better communications
The next step after designing is the making of the drawing. With CAD software standardization of the drawing has become easier with fewer drawing errors and greater legibility. Along with this, it has also allowed us to make communication of the designs easier as the designs are transferred digitally within seconds, decreasing lead/manufacturing time. Any changes that are to made in the design can be easily transferred back, corrected and send back for next authentication

4. Creating documentation of the designing
Having proper documentation of the designs is a very important part of designing and this can be done very efficiently on CAD software. The process of documentation of an existing pattern can be done through a digitizer and then stored digitally for later use. The uses can be from referencing from older designs to geometric and dimensions of the product, its components, and subassemblies, material specifications of the components, bill of materials of the components.

5. Creating the database for manufacturing
With the easy process of documentation, CAD software has allowed us for better databases for designs that can be used for manufacturing and speeding up the process. Rather than searching for any particular design for reorders, it can be found directly from the database.

6. Simulations
3D designing being the future for CAD has already started influencing the world of fashion. With features like 3D virtual sample making, wherein we can altogether bypass the physical process of sample making and dramatically reduced the time and cost associated with product development. With it, we can also make a virtual 3D avatar of a human figure just by scanning through specific hardware. Simulations of fabric are also made possible to visualize the physical properties of the fabric which include pleats, textures, transparencies, drapability etc. With 3D CAD full-motion simulation of any garment can be done on a virtual model and it can then be made to run, dance, cycle, pose, walk etc. Along with identifying the pressure points on the garments.

7. Elimination of inventory
With 3D modeling, there is no need for a physical sample to be made. Everything starting from sample making, photo shoot for online sales, buyer communication can be done through it. This also eliminates the need for having an inventory as every design can be stored online for future reference.

Some of the popular CAD software are

There are many CAD software solution providers for the garment and textile industry. Here is a list of such popular CAD systems. 
  • AccuMark Pattern Design Software by Gerber Technology 
  • CAD.Assyst by Human Solution Assyst AVM 
  • Modrais by Lectra Systems
  • Cosma Technology
  • Optitex Pattern Design software by Optitex
  • TUKAcad by Tukateck Inc.
  • Fashion Cad by Cad Cam Solutions Australia Pty. Ltd
  • SDS-ONE APEX3 from Shima Seiki
  • PAD System
  • GT CAD by Genuine Technology and Research Limited
  • StyleCad

Categorization of CAD Systems

The use of CAD in the textile and apparel industry can be categorized by

1. CAD for fabric design
Fabric designing on CAD includes both surface design and structural design. It acts as a stimulation for all types of fabric and allows us to plan a complex weave, color scheme, etc. With the powerful features, the software is able to create a pattern based on the design and can also generate an infinite number of designs variation. We can also create any kind of weave pattern starting from plain to dobby and jacquard. Some of the prominent software are Design Dobby, Design Jacquard from Textronic, Pro Weave from Pointcarre, TUKAstudio for TUKATECH, Weave It, Adobe Illustrator etc.

2. CAD for apparel design
For any garment to be made the process starts with a proper design of the garment which will contain the shape of the garment, any design or embellishment that will go on the garment etc. all this process can now be done entirely on a computer system where we can design the garment, check out color combinations, make changes if needed and along with that documentation. After that, they can be made ready for pattern making. Some of the most useful design software are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, AutoCAD, Smart Designer Modern High Tech, Telestia Creator etc.

3. CAD for pattern making
The use of CAD in pattern making comes a great deal in garment export houses, fashion schools, medium or large-size garment businesses etc. because of its features and convenience. With CAD the clumsy and tough job of pattern making which required skilled technician can be done with ease and accuracy. With this pattern, a maker can justify image efficiency before print out through 2D/3D visual effects. Nowadays even a garment can be scanned and modified digitally and printed again on the plotter. With CAD the accuracy and easiness of pattern digitizing, drafting, grading has increased many folds. It also helps in visualizing the measurements of different styles and gain control of internal features such as notches, button, drill holes. Some of the world-renowned pattern-making software along with their website link are Lectra, O/DEV by Optitex, TUKAcad by Tukatech, Richpeace, Gemini CAD systems Wild Ginger, etc.

4. CAD for cutting room operations
The main function of CAD in the cutting room is for marker making which can be done manually or automatically through a powerful algorithm providing the highest material utilization. Along with that, they are also integrated with a CAM(Computer-Aided Manufacturing) which is generally spreading and cutting machines. It also contains information for the spreader to prepare to spread job, a number of plies included, spread length, spreading mode, etc. Some of the world-renowned cutting room software is Integrated CAD by Gerber technology, Modaris by Lectra, GT CAD Software, O/PRO by Optitex, SMARTmark Tukatech, Richpeace etc.

With the present scenario of the manufacturing sector, a new development of products, competitive pricing, relative margins, brand image, customer loyalty etc. have become the most important factors for remaining competitive in the market. And companies are trying on ways to increase production efficiency without much compromise. With the use of CAD/CAM they have been able to decrease throughput time for a lot of processes like designing of fabrics, prints to garments, sampling, grading, marker making; increase their fabric utilization efficiency many folds by proper marker making or by a minimum of wastage. Factors like this will affect the production thus making it use a must for the growing industry.

Factors to consider before installing a CAD system

Installation of the software for any company should depend upon its requirement. Some of the factors that must be considered while buying or upgrading a CAD system/software can be as
  • Buying something according to the requirement and not to the extra features or brand value.
  • Determining the budget that must be allotted for the software and the expected ROI (Return on Investment) from it.
  • Initial hardware present must be checked against the requirements of CAD software vendors otherwise the software may not function properly.
  • The software must have a user-friendly interface for the operator to feel comfortable using it.
  • Asking for a free trial version of the software to check its compatibility with the resources available

CAD Software pricing

About the pricing, most of the software comes with a different package. The basic level is often free or priced less but comes with a lesser number of features, but more features can be added or upgraded with paid modules More the number of tools, more will be the cost. They also come with the subscriptions system where we can use the license for a maximum period which we have already paid for. For a glimpse of the pricing, I’m taking examples from some of the major CAD systems. Gerber and Lectra have systems starting from $10,000 and with a full set-up of software (more than one workstation), drafting table, digitizer, plotter and computers at $40,000. Master Pattern from PAD is priced at $4,500. TUKATECH has a price of $7,500 for basic program. WildGinger is priced under $4,000. AutoCAD and TurboCAD are ranged from $100 to $400 depending on the features. Pricing is often based on individual packages designed for company needs thus they should be bought depending upon the need the company. (

Future of CAD in the apparel industry

With the way in which technology is improving, we can expect a future wherein the entire process of garment manufacturing would be done through machines by a powerful algorithm and with very little human presence. With On-demand Manufacturing becoming the new way of production CAD has already influenced the industry with its 3D visual rendering of garments on to the human figures. It will also play an important role in a 3D printed fashion which is expected to becoming the next big thing in the fashion industry. With CAD, there is no turning back to the era of hand-drawn design because of its huge potential of changing this diverse industry, pushing forward the boundaries of fashion.


Soumyadeep Saha

Soumyadeep Saha holds a Master's Degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, New Delhi. He is also a graduate in apparel production. His area of interest includes Quality Assurance and technology implementations in Apparel Production.

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