Saturday, February 28, 2015

Punch Drunk - Embroidery Edition

Have you ever heard the term “punching” in regards to machine embroidery?

If you’ve been in this crazy business for a long while, you know exactly what this refers to.  If you’ve only been in it for even 10 or 15 years, you may have heard the term but aren’t sure what it means. Less than 10 years, you might not have even come across the term.

I started digitizing over 22 years ago. Back then we called it punching because designs were saved on paper tapes much like the old tele-type tapes (you may even have to look that up J).  These tapes were created on a reel to reel machine that punched holes into the tape which corresponded to stitches in the embroidery software.  Each tape held a design and some designs that were really big, like jacket backs would consist of multiple tapes. When you wanted to load a design, you had to run the tape through the reader and the software would read the holes and bring the design up on the screen, stitch by stitch. Hence, the act of programming embroidery designs was called punching and the people who did it, punchers.  It was nothing to tell customers they’d have their design in 2 or 3 weeks.

Later when technology came forward a bit, we became digitizers.  Design were plotted out on a tablet or large board resembling an architect table and stitches were input directly into the computer. You had to path the design out before you even started because input began with the first stitch and ended with the last, in the exact order it was to sew. If a mistake was made or something was left out, you had to erase everything back to the point where the error or omission was and do it over again. Editing afterwards was limited, at best, and it was confined mostly to moving stitches one at a time. Seems archaic now, right? It kinda was…

We were still a few years away from being able to bring the artwork up into the software to digitize over it. Now of course, everything is done on screen, full editing capabilities and many automated features like complex fills and keyboard lettering that the software does for you.

We’ve come a long way in this industry. I’ve seen all the changes but I’m really glad the process has gotten easier with the advances in embroidery technology.  Even after all this time, I still catch myself using the term punching.  My customer may not know what I’m talking about but it always makes me smile.


Melanie said...

oh I´m not sooo long in the industrie- it must been 8 years or so. But I know the term punching. :-) Not only embroidery machines used this method. Many other CNC machines did the same. But the use of computersoftware was faster in most other industries than in textile decoration.
I use the word punching when I tell my customers what I do with their graphic files. Digitizing is often mistaken with the word digitalisieren. And I don´t want to confus them.
I belive in Germany is another term used from the "punching period": "Stickkarte" for the embroidery file - Maybe its related with the long paper strip rolls. Or maybe it refers to the small cassetts some manufacters sold there embroidery files on.

Mark Oscar said...

Thanks for sharing I really appreciate your work :)