Investigation of factors influencing CAD selection and use for apparel design

Investigation of factors influencing CAD selection and use for apparel design

Wimmer, Janet R

Since the 1960s when computer-aided design (CAD) was introduced for pattern grading, use of CAD technology has rapidly increased in the apparel industry. CAD is a tool used in pre-production departments to speed up the design and preassembly processes. Colleges and universities in the United States are examining ways to implement CAD into the design curriculum so students planning to work in the apparel industry will have a working knowledge of this technology. The growth of computers and CAD in industry has generated interest in computer use and CAD in education. The purpose of this study was to investigate factors influencing selection and use of CAD systems at universities with apparel design programs

CAD in the Apparel Design Curriculum Introduction of computerized pattern grading and marker making technology created challenges for the apparel industry. Lack of qualified personnel in the pattern department and fear of automation curtailed early use of this equipment by apparel manufacturers. However, this restrictive use of pattern grading and marker making technology lasted only a short time. Apparel manufacturers and CAD companies recognize graduates of apparel design programs as a potential source for CAD operators (DeWitt, 1991). Moreover, apparel design programs recognize the importance of developing linkages with the textiles and apparel industry (Kunz, Lewis, & Coffin, 1992).Advisory boards have been created to provide recommendations on knowledge and training needed by students, their future employees (“Automation Makes,” 1984; Shanley & Kincade, 1991).

Faculty in clothing and textiles understand the importance of student exposure to CAD to better prepare students for employment in the apparel industry (Sheldon & Regan,1990). CAD exposure promotes a more positive attitude toward automation in the industry (Caldwell & Workman,1985). According to Van De Bogart and Knoll (1990), clothing and textile programs began to integrate CAD into the design curriculum in the early 1980s.

Fraser (1985a, 1985b) contends that, eventually, fashion design programs will introduce and use computer systems at all levels of the designer’s education and in such courses as Principles of Color and Design, Apparel Construction, Flat Pattern, Designing Groups, Pattern Drafting, and Fashion Illustration (Sheldon,1988). Colleges and universities are compelled to incorporate CAD into curricula since most educators are already using computers in their jobs and are eager to expose students to more industry computer applications in design or merchandising (Knoll,1989).

Difficulties of Incorporating CAD Into the Curriculum

Three issues must be considered when incorporating CAD into the curriculum: (1) the amount of time required for instructors to learn CAD prior to teaching it, (2) the availability of funds to purchase CAD hardware and software, and (3) the decision regarding what to eliminate from existing curricula to include CAD (Van De Bogart & Knoll, 1990).

Lack of qualified faculty to teach CAD in the design curriculum is a problem that programs must face when implementing CAD (Koch, 1990). Venkataraman (1992) found most designers needed between one and three months of training to become proficient on a CAD system; this time frame, however, was based on the designer working on the system eight hours a day, five days a week. Few faculty can devote this amount of time to become proficient with CAD because of varied university commitments (Van De Bogart & Knoll, 1990). Another obstacle to be faced when integrating CAD into the curriculum is the lack of CAD instructional materials. The instructor usually must develop materials or contact other instructors who teach CAD for suggestions and ideas on what types of materials to use (Huck & Hedrick, 1990; Koch, 1990; Steinhaus, 1988).

The high cost of industrial CAD systems (e.g., LectraTM, MicrodynamicsTM, Gerber Garment Technology, Inc.) exceeds operating budgets of many clothing and textiles programs (Huck & Hedrick, 1990). Industrial CAD systems usually are more expensive than PC-type systems due to the industry-specific software as opposed to a more generic and less specific software such as AutoCAD (Huck & Hedrick, 1990). Even if a system is affordable, the cost of updated software and hardware can be prohibitive.

Programs that have qualified personnel and equipment also have the task of incorporating CAD as an integral part of the design curriculum (Belleau & Bourgeois, 1991;Van De Bogart & Knoll, 1990). Program administrators must decide what existing course CAD should replace if all of the materials considered important to the student’s education and employability are to be maintained.

Using computers for assignments in clothing and textiles classes can be time consuming and expensive, but it can also be a rewarding undertaking (Grasso & Craig, 1988). Student exposure to CAD systems can no longer be ignored by any clothing and textiles program because computers have become an integral part of the apparel industry. Students must have CAD experience so they can compete in a job market that demands knowledge of and experience with computers applications.

Alternatives to Costly Computer Systems

The high cost of industry CAD equipment is often prohibitive to educational institutions and has, therefore, prompted use of microcomputer and CAD software in many clothing and textiles programs (Sheldon & Regan, 1990). Microcomputers are more affordable than CAD systems for industry because equipment and CAD software can be shared by other departments (Koch, 1990; Racine, 1993). Reduced size and relatively low cost of microcomputers enable the computer lab to be equipped with more workstations, whereas the size and cost of industrial CAD equipment limit the number of workstations purchased for student use.

AutoCAD is perhaps the most popular software for microcomputers in engineering, interior design, and clothing and textiles curricula (Dockery, 1989; Huck & Hedrick, 1990; Miller, 1990; Steinhaus, 1988). Educators in apparel design have developed supplemental programs for AutoCAD with functions similar to industrial CAD systems (e.g., ApparelCAD”, BetaCADTM, PC Pattern(C)); however some clothing and textiles departments use AutoCAD without these supplemental programs (Miller, 1990; Steinhaus, 1988).

Instructional materials are limited to instructions related to using the specific software. Textbooks, comprehensive instructional materials, and apparel applications, however, are limited (Belleau & Bourgeois, 1991; Belleau, Orzada, & Wozniak, 1992; Knoll, 1990; Koch, 1990; Miller, 1990). Steinhaus (1988) discussed the difficulty of teaching AutoCAD “‘ in an apparel design course when most materials for use with AutoCAD are related to engineering and architecture. As a result, she developed a tutorial to accelerate student learning and to increase their confidence when using Auto CAD for apparel design. Huck and Hedrick (1990) developed a lab manual, AutoCAD for Apparel Design, to supplement AutoCAD use in apparel design courses This lab manual allows students to learn AutoCAD quickly and apply it to CAD in the apparel design field. Sheldon (1990) taught a CAD course focusing on the efficiency of using CAD for fashion illustration, pattern making, grading, and marker making.

Another method for development of instructional material is university-sponsored CAD workshops that are available for people in industry as well as education (“Automation Makes,” 1984). The workshops enhance faculty knowledge of current industry practices and provide an understanding of entry-level skills needed for the job market. Some workshops are designed to help educators become more proficient with using CAD in the classroom. These workshops also provide a forum for educators to share ideas about implementing CAD in the classroom (Miller & DeJonge, 1987).

Objectives and Data Collection The objectives of this study were: (1) to identify CAD systems that were used by apparel design programs, (2) to determine how the CAD systems were being used and when they were first used, and (3) to determine what factors influenced the selection and use of the CAD system.

To accomplish the objectives of this study a questionnaire was mailed to 195 individuals at two-year and four-year colleges and universities selected from the 1992 International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) Membership Directory. To avoid duplication, only one faculty member from each apparel design program received a questionnaire. The sample was selected from those who lived in the United States and who indicated their research and teaching interest as clothing design/fabrication/illustration and/or textile/apparel industries. The questionnaire solicited information related to the CAD equipment and software used, teaching methods related to CAD, and factors influencing the adoption of CAD. Additional items related to respondents’ interaction with the apparel industry, industry-related organizations, and the CAD industry, as well as challenges experienced with the integration of CAD. The questionnaire items were formatted to be forced choice except for two items that requested the date of the last hardware and/or software updates and the challenges of integrating CAD in design courses. A pilot test was conducted to establish content and face validity.


One hundred nineteen questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 61%. Of the respondents, only 59 indicated CAD was being used in the curriculum. Although 60 respondents did not complete the questionnaire, they provided comments relevant to this study; 12 indicated they did not offer the apparel design option, six departments responded they were currently considering purchasing CAD equipment, and one respondent indicated money problems prevented the purchase of CAD equipment for classroom use. Two respondents stated the apparel design program was being terminated in the near future.

To identify CAD systems that were used by apparel design programs, respondents were asked what type(s) of CAD system(s) they were using and how many workstation(s) they had for each system. Fifteen apparel design programs reported using more than one CAD system for classroom instruction. IBM microcomputer-based CAD systems were used in the classroom more often than any of the CAD systems listed by respondents. The number of workstations available for use with the microcomputer-based CAD systems ranged from “1-2” to “over 50” workstations, with more apparel design programs listing use of “15-24″ workstations. Microdynamics” was the next most extensively used CAD system in the classroom. The number of workstations being used for the Microdynamics- industrial CAD system was one to six workstations, with most programs using one to two workstations. In general, one to two workstations, regardless of system type, was indicated by the majority of respondents.

Respondents were asked what type of CAD software(s) they were using with IBM (or compatible) or Macintosh” computer (Table 1). As revealed in the review of literature and confirmed by the results of this study, the most popular CAD software being used on the microcomputer was AutoCAD”‘; however, 15 respondents did not answer the question concerning which CAD software was being used in the classroom. Supplemental CAD programs (i.e., ApparelCAD-, PC Pattern, and BetaCAD) were also being used by 26 apparel design programs in conjunction with AutoCAD;; of those, ApparelCAD” was used most frequently (16 responses).

To determine how CAD systems were being used, respondents were asked to identify courses in which CAD was taught. The CAD-only course was the most frequent response (35%), followed by basic flat pattern (19%), pattern grading (13%), and advanced flat pattern classes (10%). Techniques most often taught on the CAD system were flat pattern (18%), marker making (16%), pattern grading (16%), and garment sketching (15%). Other less frequently used techniques were digitizing and pattern drafting.

Instructors developed the majority of the instructional materials that were being used by respondents in this study to teach CAD. This finding confirms the lack of instructional material for CAD (Steinhaus, 1988). The most popular tutorial/ textbook being used in the classroom was the book I CAD… Can You? Some instructors were using AutoCAD books and manuals purchased in bookstores; others were using manuals that accompanied the software to develop handouts and assignments

To determine what factors influenced the selection and use of the CAD system, respondents were asked why they had chosen the hardware system they were using. The number one reason for choosing the hardware system was that the equipment was already available. The practice of sharing or using available CAD equipment was also mentioned in the review of literature (Koch, 1990; Racine, 1993). The next most frequently mentioned reason for choosing the hardware system was the cost of the system.

CAD was first implemented in two apparel design programs in 1982; by 1990, 18 apparel design programs implemented CAD in their curriculum. Twenty one programs implemented CAD during various years before 1990, and 20 programs implemented CAD between 1991 and 1994. Some apparel design programs had updated their CAD hardware and software since the original purchase. Hardware updates for IBM and Macintosh” systems occurred from 1986 to 1993, with most updates in 1992. CAD software was updated from 1987 to 1993, with the most updates also being acquired in 1992.

Respondents were asked to rank in importance the factors influencing their decision to include CAD in apparel design courses. The factor ranked number one by the most respondents was apparel industry needs. The factor ranked second by more respondents was faculty/programs at other universities. Other factors were advice of apparel manufacturers, funds allocated for equipment, and existing equipment. Besides the factors listed on the questionnaire, respondents indicated other factors that influenced their decision. These included working with CAD vendors, advice of advisory board members, and student needs, to name a few.

When asked to specify plans for the next five years, the apparel design departments currently using CAD indicated more than one activity was planned. Activities indicated by most of the respondents were to increase CAD time in courses, upgrade software, increase CAD stations, and upgrade hardware. Additional plans indicated by fewer respondents were adding textile design, adding a CAD station, and cancelling the program.

Respondents were asked to identify challenges they had met when integrating CAD into the design courses. Responses were quantified by the opencoding process recommended by Strauss and Corbin (1990) to categorize and analyze data from open-ended questions. Previous research cited in the literature emphasized the challenges that apparel design programs had faced in implementing CAD (Belleau & Bourgeois, 1991; Huck & Hedrick, 1990; Koch, 1990; Steinhaus, 1988; Van De Bogart & Knoll, 1990). These challenges were used as categories to organize the responses for this research. The challenges that were mentioned most frequently by the respondents were lack of available funds to purchase equipment and lack of knowledgeable instructors. Other challenges included lack of instructional material, integrating into the design courses, and time constraints.

Conclusions and Implications

Results of this study have illustrated the growing use of CAD technology in clothing and textiles programs in higher education. Faculty are taking advantage of the variety of software and hardware available on the market. Although numerous challenges impede progress, these faculty have used a variety of methods to integrate CAD into the curriculum.

As the apparel industry continues to increase its investment in CAD technology, the need for computer-literate preproduction employees is being met by college and university apparel programs that have implemented CAD. Limited budgets and prohibitive costs of industrial CAD systems have prompted apparel design programs to use microcomputerbased systems, such as IBM, with available software (Sheldon & Regan, 1990). This study also found the most popular CAD system being used in apparel design programs is the IBM microcomputer. Microcomputers are more affordable than industrial CAD systems because the equipment and CAD software can be shared by other departments on campus The small size and affordable cost of microcomputers enable the computer lab to be equipped with more workstations for student use, whereas the size and cost of industrial CAD equipment limit the number of workstations that can be purchased and made available for students.

CAD software for design is evolving; however, the results of this study indicate the need for software that is specific to apparel design, user-friendly, and accompanied by instructional materials. Most apparel design faculty surveyed indicated they had to develop instructional materials to assist students in using CAD systems. Thus, publishers should use this information to develop literature that meets the CAD needs of faculty in apparel design.

For those programs considering CAD for their curricula, the major considerations are cost, space, and accessibility for students The results of this study indicate microcomputers are more costefficient, take up less space, and are more accessible to students with the availability of more workstations; however, they may not be as efficient as industrial CAD systems. To effectively meet the needs of the apparel industry, students must understand how to apply apparel design concepts using CAD as well as how to use equipment similar to that used in industry. To offset the cost of purchasing multiple industrial CAD workstations, CAD vendors should design software to work on multiple microcomputer workstations and that will interface with various full scale plotters and digitizers, or develop an interface that will import the software to the microcomputer. If a program can afford both, students would gain experience on a system used in industry as well as have the convenience of the microcomputer to enhance their skills with design techniques.

Although apparel programs are supporting industry needs for professionals with CAD training. it is obvious from this research that software and hardware designers need to provide equipment and instructional materials to facilitate the instructional process.

Copyright American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences Fall 1997

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