How a Gap in Automation is Causing Your Manufacturing to Bottleneck

Bridging the Gap in Manufacturing Automation


As the trend of automating design and manufacturing process further develops, there are some areas where the market is flooded with automation software tools. However, there are clear examples of other steps in the production process that are still done manually. These areas are responsible for creating substantial bottlenecks in the design-to-production process.


Realize the Problem in Implementing Manufacturing Automation

Irrespective of the type of industry, there are many similarities between each industries’ production process.  Whether your company manufactures products made from industrial fabrics, woven composites, leather, or stamped metal —the manufacturing process steps are virtually universal.  In most cases 3D design software, has automated the beginning steps of the process:

gap in automation guide1. Concept Design and 2. Performance Simulation. 

But this is where the automation stops. Manufacturers tend to step back at this point into a markedly old-fashioned and manual production preparation processes that haven’t been updated in decades.  

This outdated process often includes several time-consuming steps such as:

3. Physical Mock-ups  4. Draping 5. Digitizing 6. Pattern Design.

This is the sequence that we refer to as the Automation Bottleneck. In this particular phase of production, automation that was previously moving at full speed slows down, and manual trial and retrial techniques result in wasted time and materials.  

While the final steps:

7. Production Drawings, 8. Nesting, 9. CNC Cutting 

This final sequence is again often automated it is the process in the middle that creates the major automation gap that results in longer production cycles and lower profitability.



Missing the Mark

This Automation Bottleneck that occurs can be simply referred to as the process in which the 3D design is flattened into a 2D flat pattern. Some software vendors are aware of the 3D pattern-flattening problem, and a few have claimed to solve it.

Solution: Eliminate All Z-Axis Data Points

In this solution, software vendors recommend eliminating all Z- axis data points within the 3D model. While this might work for the perfect geometrical shape, such as a square box, it leaves creative 3D models without a life raft. This “solution” also essentially throws away one-third of the design information and in this manner does not generate an accurate cutting pattern.

Solution: “Squash” a 3D Model into 2D

Some CAD software offers a feature to “squash” a 3D model into the 2D design. Again if the geometrical shape is that of a box, this method might work. But it won’t work well for most shapes using industrial fabrics, which are rounded and curve din complex ways.

Solution: Sheet-Metal Flattening

Some manufacturers try to use sheet-metal flattening software for their industrial fabrics. But metals are isotropic and do not stretch like anisotropic fabrics. That’s why metal-flattening software can’t generate accurate cutting patterns for fabrics.


The bottom line here is that there is no workaround, no feature built into CAD software, and no metal-flattening software that can truly create fast, accurate cutting patterns for industrial fabrics. This is until ExactFlat.


Discover the Real Solution: ExactFlat 3D Pattern Flattening Software

ExactFlat pattern flattening software is purpose-built to meet all the exacting requirements of textiles manufacturers. These capabilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Fast and accurate 3D to 2D flattening3D Pattern Flattening with speed and accuracy
  • Flexible file import that works with all major CAD programs
  • Pattern and Marker exports formats for all major CNC cutting tables
  • A simple interface that demands next-to-no learning curve
  • Time-saving tools to automate industry specific tasks such as adding seam allowances, notching, and defining grain lines

Automation has saved business’ millions of dollars in efficacy for time and cost management. With automation benefiting the beginning and end steps of the process it’s unreasonable to allow the middle steps to continue in such an outdated fashion. Increase your speed, eliminate wasted materials, and take on better, more creative and higher-margin projects.  Start your free trial of ExactFlat software here.


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