We all know that SolidWorks is the best CAD program for designing anything from toy cars to refrigerators to shopping malls. But what about those products which aren’t made of wood or plastic or steel? What about soft fabrics and leathers? How are you supposed to design fabric components in a solid modeling program?
Luckily, Steve McLendon and his new ExactFlat Design Studio feel your pain. The charismatic Atlantan was frustrated with the limitations of solid modellers when it came to industrial fabric design, and wanted to do something about it.
ExactFlat allows industrial fabric designers to create CNC-ready cutting paths for nested fabric patterns directly in SolidWorks. Here’s how it works:
Start with any surface model in SolidWorks. ExactFlat analyzes the stresses on the fabric due to, say, someone’s 200-pound butt sitting in a seat. It then figures out where the fabric stretches or sags, and resizes the cutting path accordingly, to give you exactly the side you need for a nice smooth piece.
The program then automatically determines where the fabric should be cut, to make the fewest flat sections, and splits the surfaces for you. It even automatically adds some excess material so the sections can be sewn together. After that, given the details the fabric cutter you’ll be using, and the number of items you hope to make, the software quickly computes the most space-efficient cutting layouts; a process known as “nesting.” Best of all, every step in the process is done inside SolidWorks, and everything is fully parametric, so design updates carry through to ExactFlat.
The 22 members of the ExactFlat team have been working together in fabrics engineering for eight years out of their office in Sudbury, Canada. But they only recently brought their technology to SolidWorks. They’ve been working on the complex algorithms that flatten out fabrics for the last five years, and now that they’re confident in its power, they’re releasing it to the CAD community. The product is so new, in fact, that they’ll be taking a loss in software sales until June, just to build up their momentum. During that time, they hope to build a strong reseller network. Another way ExactFlat is hoping to build interest is by offering a 30-day free trial! Check it out here.