How is CAD & CAM Used in Textiles?

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

How are colorful textile patterns designed? Did you know computers are involved? In this lesson, explore how CAD and CAM technologies are used in designing and making textiles.

What Is CAD and CAM?

Every day, we're surrounded by all kinds of colorful textiles. But how are the patterns on these textiles designed? You're probably wearing clothing right now, but did you know that your shirt or hat might have been created on a computer? An important way computers are used in the textile industry is through CAD and CAM systems.

Many types of garments are designed with CAD and made with CAM
rows of mens ties

CAD means computer-aided design. You might also see it called CADD or CAID, meaning computer-aided design and drafting. A CAD system is computer software that simplifies the process of designing textile elements like printed surface patterns and garments. CAD systems were originally developed to design precision machines, but by the 1970s they began to find applications in the textile industry. Today CAD use is widespread in textile and fashion design.

But where does CAM come in? CAM means computer aided manufacture, and it is a system usually used in conjunction with CAD. After a designer completes a design using a CAD system, it's transferred to a CAM system, which automates the manufacturing process.

People who use these products still need to be knowledgeable about textile design and manufacture. These computer systems just make their jobs easier. Now let's learn more about how these two systems are used in textiles.

How Are They Used in the Textile Industry?

Using CAD

Many textile and fashion designers use CAD systems. The designer might start by hand-drawing a few rough images. Then, they scan the images into a computer and begin using CAD. A designer uses CAD to modify design drafts and make changes. Depending on what type of textile a designer creates, they might use different types of CAD software. There are systems for general textile design as well as creating knitted and printed fabrics. There are CAD systems for illustration and sketch pad applications that allow a person to draw freehand directly on the computer. There are CAD systems that show a designer how a type of fabric might drape on a potential garment. Some CAD programs even design embroidery patterns.

Maybe one of these colorful garments was designed using CAD
row of colorful dresses

CAD takes the whole design process and allows it to be done on the computer. For example, when creating a textile pattern with colorful flowers, a designer can change the geometric pattern of the flowers, make them different colors, change the background color, resize them and rotate them. This can all be done on a computer screen and without redrawing each draft. A process that use to take days now takes hours, and all the work is stored as digital files in the system.

Once the design is done, the CAD can transfer the digital files to a CAM.

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