Textile World: The Rise of Robotic Automation in the Sewing Industry
The art of sewing has not fundamentally changed since the first seamstress put needle and thread to fabric thousands of years ago. Even with great engineering advances including mechanized looms and sewing machines, the way sewn goods are produced is just as labor intensive today as it was 100 years ago. To further complicate matters, today’s consumers want inexpensive, high-quality goods delivered to their doorstep within days, pushing the limits of the traditional manufacturing business model to its breaking point.
Over the past few decades, sewn goods manufacturers lowered overhead by relocating operations to the countries paying the lowest wages. However, this business strategy is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain because of rising labor costs in the developing world, a global shortage of skilled seamstresses, and a change in consumer behavior pushed by fast fashion brands and social media platforms. New market conditions have made the sewn goods industry ripe for a new age of automation.
There have been attempts in the past to fully automate the sewing process. Most of the previous systems relied on clamps to hold the fabric taught, making it more rigid and less susceptible to distortion. This system limited automation to certain operations during the sewing process such as when sewing on buttons or pockets. Aligning two pieces of fabric correctly and feeding them through the sewing head without slippage or buckling occurring — while maintaining the correct tension levels — has proven to be a process better managed by human hands.
Read the full article at Textile World.