Using Linux at Lectra-Systèmes

Linux as used in CAD/CAM design by Lectra Systemes, France.
OpenPartner Desktop

The first graphic applications under MILOS had a very spartan look, due to the weak performances of the graphic controllers at that time (beginning of the 1980s). The screens, although graphical, could manage only 16 colours, and moreover, they did not use multiple windows. Hastened by competition, in 1990 Lectra decided to develop the graphic interfaces to a multi-window system facilitating the operator's work for basic operations, such as launching applications or working with files. This tool, called OpenPartner, was initially developed for the MILOS target using a low level owner library (similar to Xlib calls). The structure of the interface seemed very similar to that of the Xt/Intrinsics Widgets hierarchy.

The port of OpenPartner to the Unix environment comes with the addition of the administrative functions of the station by a privileged user, in particular:

  • Adding and removing Lectra packages

  • The network management (adding/removing stations, NFS mount management)

  • Serial lines and modem management

  • Printer management

  • Licenses and Lectra applications management

  • User management, in particular the applications authorised for each one

Figure 2 is an example of the main window in the OpenPartner environment with the package management utility, P-Manager.

Figure 2. OpenPartner with the Package Management Utility P-Manager

One of the important tasks was to develop a printer management system that could be extended and was easy to use. Even while supporting Unix, we have to admit the print system on MS Windows or even MacOS is much clearer and easier to use than on our favourite operating system. Furthermore, all the printers currently on the market are supplied with their own Windows or MacOS driver.

Our print system (operating customer/server) uses the Ghostscript program which manages different types of printers (PCL, PostScript, raster) on varied connections—serial line, Centronics, network, SCSI. A graphic tool integrated in OpenPartner, I-Manager, is used to select only the printer characteristics that are actually used. The list then appears in the print selector of Lectra applications.

Figure 3. Integrated Graphic Utility I-Manager

Lectra applications

The applications are intended for industrial professionals in apparel. The garment is designed in various stages and corresponds to different trades. One of the characteristics of the apparel industry is the use of sub-contractors and delocalisation. Various stages of the apparel might be realised by the apparel maker, yet production could be sub-contracted to another country. Some countries deal only with the design or the production, and supply several major brands.

The result of this situation for a company like Lectra is that it is absolutely essential to design open software, as very few customers will buy a complete series, and it is therefore necessary to know how to communicate with competing software.

Another important constraint is to support lots of languages, such as Japanese, Chinese or Russian, by using tools such as the Asiatic front-end-processor under X11.

On first approach, we can expect the following stages when designing a garment.

Design

The designer has to create a garment model, like an artistic drawing. His/Her work is mainly based on the choice of shapes, colours, and types of fabrics that can be used. The advantage of having a data processing tool is clear. Other than the possibility of working on an “electronic sheet”, the software enables the pattern maker to import fabric motifs in an electronic form or even by using a scanner, to file the suggestions of different collections, and to make fabric simulations in 2D or 3D.

The ProStyle software offers all the above functions on a high performance Linux PC (Pentium 120 with Diamond Stealth S3-968 graphics board, 16 million colours). Sublimation printouts are also available. The software also works with the Silicon Graphics architecture.

Figure 4. Graphics Software ProStyle

Pattern Making

The pattern makers must create the pattern of the garment, i.e., the plan with quotation, from the information given by the designer. He/She must also manage the different sizes, or grading, available. The information in this phase is one of the most interesting with the marker (see below) as it has a high turnover—the number of patterns produced.

Figure 5 is a view of the initial screen of the Modaris application, designed for the pattern maker.

Figure 5. The Modaris Pattern Maker Utility

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