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Equal Times: “Cheap labour versus robots, who will sew the clothes of the future?”


Equal Times: “Cheap labour versus robots, who will sew the clothes of the future?”

The t-shirt you are going to buy next month is probably being made at this very moment. A woman of about 30 years old, from a humble family in Vietnam or Bangladesh, is probably sitting, right now, in a poorly ventilated, overcrowded factory, sewing an article of clothing that you do not even know you need yet.

Sixty per cent of the clothing and footwear we buy under the labels of major multinationals are produced in south-east Asia. Perhaps you already knew that. But what you may not know is that, at this very moment, about 15,000 kilometres from the Vietnamese factory where the woman is sewing, a group of IT engineers is looking into whether a robot could do her job.

Over the last seven years, the North American startup Softwear Automation has been developing a machine capable of stitching anything from a towel to a pair of trousers, totally autonomously. It is the most complicated step in the textile process, and requires a precision and skill that only human hands have been capable of until now. But the Atlanta-based company has launched LOWRY, one of the latest ‘sewbots’ or sewing robots. The secret lies in the incorporation of a camera so that the machine can take photos while it sews, to control its movements better. The invention has already seduced the North American retail chain Walmart, which has invested US$2 million to fund its development.

Read more here.

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