Industries in the Textile Mills subsector group establishments that transform a basic fiber (natural or synthetic) into a product, such as yarn or fabric that is further manufactured into usable items, such as apparel, sheets, towels, and textile bags for individual or industrial consumption. The further manufacturing may be performed in the same establishment and classified in this subsector, or it may be performed at a separate establishment and be classified elsewhere in manufacturing.
How Robotic Sewing Experiment Got Levi’s Attention
The teams’ early work integrated sewing machines with collaborative robot systems and designed an end effector capable of lifting and controlling a single large ply of fabric. Recent projects have built upon these developments to be able to robotically conduct more advanced operations like hemming, fabric fusing, pocket setting and curved stitches. The two firms then turned to Sewbo, a company that wants to address a common problem that prevents robotics from meshing with apparel production—the technology often has difficulty trying to handle limp, flexible or floppy fabrics, and thus can’t start the sewing process.
Because the machines are also expensive, according to Zornow, the upfront investment and maintenance costs are also high. To make matters tougher, the downtime can be substantial, he said. “Consequentially, you sort of find this paradigm where although a lot of the tools do exist, they’re not really getting used,” Zornow said. Rather than teach robots how to handle cloth, Sewbo temporarily stiffens the fabric with a nontoxic polymer, enabling off-the-shelf industrial robots to build garments from rigid cloth, just as if they were working with sheet metal. Zornow told Rivet that the use of the stiffening agent was the “big breakthrough” that made the technology innovation possible.
An Effort Towards Reducing Industrial Textile Waste
Textiles include various types of materials made from natural and synthetic fibers. To ensure the finished products are defect-free, inspecting the fibers during the production process is important. This also can result in a 45% to 60% savings on the total expenditure due to wastage or recalling defective products.
Line scan cameras are widely used to detect defects in the textile industry. These use single pixel lines for the construction of continuous 2D images as the materials pass through the production line. The cameras can capture superior quality images of various types of materials, which help in detecting any pattern changes without any breaks. Additionally, these cameras can notify operators about any changes in color and texture.
How polyester bounced back
Four decades later, polyester rules the textile world. It accounts for more than half of global fiber consumption, about twice that of second-place cotton. Output stands at nearly 58 million tons a year, more than 10 times what it was in the early ’80s. And nobody complains about polyester’s look and feel. If there’s a problem today, it’s that people like polyester too much. It’s everywhere, even at the bottom of the ocean.
The trick to making microfibres is a process known as ‘islands-in-the-sea’. Polyester and another polymer with a different viscosity go through the spinneret together. The polyester is carefully metered out so that it forms many separate strands – the islands – surrounded by the other polymer, the sea. Together they make up a single extruded filament, typically about one to three denier. ‘So each island can be very, very tiny’, says Arnold Wilkie, president of Hills, Inc., a Florida company that specializes in making the equipment. The sea is dissolved away, leaving the polyester microfibers. Although it started with pretty nasty solvents, the process now uses polymers designed to be washed away with benign chemicals, in some cases water, and then reused.
ABB’s Paper Mill Technology Helps Renewcell Turn Old Clothes Into New Fabrics
In recent years, the pulp and paper industry has gone from having a reputation of being dirty and environmentally unfriendly to being a leader in sustainability and pollution control. Now the technologies that enabled that transition are being used to help the textile industry too. And the players involved are restarting a shuttered paper mill in Sweden to make it happen, once more providing good-paying jobs for the area.
Renewcell is the Sweden-based scaleup at the center of it all. The company developed a sustainable process that recycles waste textiles into a product called Circulose, whose name is the tip-off that it’s aimed at making fashion circular.
Why Robots Can’t Sew Your T-Shirt
But sewing has been notoriously difficult to automate, because textiles bunch and stretch as they’re worked with. Human hands are adept at keeping fabric organized as it passes through a sewing machine. Robots typically are not deft enough to handle the task.
SoftWear’s robots overcame those hurdles. They can make a T-shirt. But making them as cheaply as human workers do in places like China or Guatemala, where workers earn a fraction of what they might make in the US, will be a challenge, says Sheng Lu, a professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware.
SoftWear calls its robotic systems Sewbots. They are basically elaborate work tables that pair sewing machines with complex sensors. The company zealously guards the details of how they work, but here are the basics: Fabric is cut into pieces that will become parts of the shirt: the front, the back, and the sleeves. Those pieces are loaded into a work line where, instead of a person pushing the fabric through a sewing machine, a complicated vacuum system stretches and moves the material. Cameras track the threads in each panel, allowing the system to make adjustments while the garment is being constructed.
Davey Textiles Shows Digital Transformation Can Be Affordable and Effective
If something interrupted operations, the Uptake Fusion’s Downtime Tracker sent an alert to the operator. Due to the noise levels on the floor, the solution sent the alert via Twitter, ensuring operators could be notified directly through their hearing protection devices.
The company could also now visualize production data to examine trends and anomalies for products, days, shifts, equipment, room locations, and other key variables. They now had new insight into causes of lost production, enabling them to eliminate issues that undermined operational optimization. Uptake Fusion also managed all of this using a single-pane view, minimizing user complexity.
Smart Textile Manufacturer Profile: Myant, Inc.
Founded in 2011, Myant develops smart textiles that are revolutionizing the textile industry for the healthcare and consumer markets. Myant not only challenges the norms of the industry but also collaborates with other innovative start ups, manufacturers, and research institutes in Ontario to build an entirely new ecosystem around smart textiles.
Textile Computing, as Myant defines it, is the technology that connects the human body to the world around it through textiles. Capitalizing on the latest advances in various disciplines, the 10-year old Toronto-based start up knits everyday textiles out of conductive yarns and embeds biometric sensors and actuators into them. A proprietary software platform records and processes the data collected through the hardware, giving Myant’s products the ability to sense and react to the human body.