Menswear entrepreneur Harris Quinn wrote a thoughtful piece at Wired recently on the mixed success of efforts to automate sewing via Sewbots, for example, developed by SoftWear Automation CEO Palaniswamy Rajan:
One reason that sewing lends itself so well to the grinding labor of sweatshops is that it is very difficult to automate. That’s because cloth is pliable and constantly moving. The Sewbots face unexpected hurdles:
But no two batches of cotton are exactly alike, often varying from harvest to harvest; variations in the fabric and dyes further complicate matters. Each variation can necessitate recalibrating the system, interrupting operations, and SoftWear has to train its machinery to respond accordingly. “The biggest challenge we have faced getting to a production system is the requirement of being able to operate 24/7 at high speeds and greater than 98 percent quality,” says Rajan.HARRIS QUINN, “WHY ROBOTS CAN’T SEW YOUR T-SHIRT” AT WIRED (SEPTEMBER 27, 2021)
So far, Softwear Automation has only made 50 T-shirts.
Quinn worries about the potential job loss from robotic success:
Rajan acknowledges that SoftWear will employ fewer people than a traditional T-shirt maker, but he believes his company will create higher-paying jobs for people who will maintain the machines. “You want to develop the workforce, and you want to train the workforce,” he says. “Our intention is to have skilled labor and fast, agile production.”HARRIS QUINN, “WHY ROBOTS CAN’T SEW YOUR T-SHIRT” AT WIRED (SEPTEMBER 27, 2021)
Read the full article on MIND MATTERS NEWS, here.