Robots in sewing factories won’t look like science fiction, said Palaniswamy “Raj” Rajan, chief executive officer and chairman of Softwear Automation Inc., an Atlanta company that copyrighted the word “Sewbot,” or a robot that sews.
Much like an automobile factory, apparel workers will handle machines that make an end garment, in this case, clothing.
As for the sewbots, their robotic arms will pick the garment, sew the garment and pass it onto a finishing machine. “What it will be able to do is take a roll of fabric and out comes a finished product,” Rajan said. “There is no human touch in the middle.”
His company sold its first Sewbot in late 2015. SoftWear Automation makes sewbots for manufacturers. It does not make clothes. Founded by academics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, SoftWear Automation received a research grant from the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to research robots to make clothing. Much of the research-and-development funds for robotics and apparel manufacturing come from government grants.
Rajan declined to state sales for his company. He did say that 2017 sales are forecast to be four times greater than 2016 sales. So far, the company has sold exclusively to American manufacturers. “The best place to make a product is where all of the raw materials and resources are,” Rajan said. “You will see a sizable amount of industry moving back to the U.S.”
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