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02.19.2018

WSJ “Moving Upstream”: How Sewing Robots May Put Human Hands Out of Work

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WSJ “Moving Upstream”: How Sewing Robots May Put Human Hands Out of Work

Automation is finally coming into fashion, with sewing robots that can produce clothes faster than human hands. WSJ’s Jason Bellini takes a look at the latest technology and what it means for the garment industry.

The automation revolution is coming into fashion.

The clothing industry was among the first to be mechanized. Electric sewing machines have been in use for well over a hundred years. But they require skilled human hands to guide the materials.

Now robotic and computer-enhanced machine technologies are beginning to come into use — reducing the number of workers needed for mass production of clothing.

The Journal witnessed one such example in a garment factory in Bangladesh. There, a German-made machine — which looks like a large printer — knits sweaters for brands such as H&M and Zara.

Elsewhere, we observed how a new generation of Japanese-made machines from the Yuho Sewing Machine Co. is automating even more complex and time-consuming sewing tasks.

Softwear Automation, an Atlanta-based firm that develops automated tools for apparel factories, says that its “sewbots” will be used next year in a Little Rock, Ark., factory operated by Chinese garment producer Tinyuan Garments Co.

Automation could help bring some apparel production back to places with more-expensive labor, including the U.S.

This episode of Moving Upstream is the third in a series that looks at the “Robotics Revolution.”

Watch the full video here.

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About Moving Upstream:
WSJ’s Jason Bellini explores the trends, technologies, ideas and challenges that are headed our way in this video series. In each episode, we visit the places, and meet the people who can help us to better understand what’s upstream.

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