Levi Strauss Automated Denim Sew Flyers.  Will others follow?  Sources Magazine

Levi Strauss Automated Denim Sew Flyers. Will others follow? Sources Magazine

Automation It has taken over many areas clothing manufacturingbut the next innovation could come in the form of machine stitching.

Levi Strauss & Co. Siemens Industrial Manufacturing is collaborating to publish more Robotics Use cases in apparel production. A spokesperson for the denim giant confirmed to Reuters that the company was involved in the early stages of the project.

Levi Strauss & Co. did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Siemens’ ambitions to automate clothing manufacturing emerged from initial efforts to create software for guiding robots that could handle all kinds of flexible materials, such as thin wire cables.

According to Eugen Solowjow, head of the research group at Siemens, the company quickly realized that clothing was a prime target for this type of robotics technology.

“Apparel is the last trillion-dollar industry that hasn’t been automated,” Sologo told Reuters.

For some sectors, bots remain in their relative infancy when it comes to publishing. According to a recent study from a supply chain robotics technology provider Berkshire GrayOnly 13 percent of CEOs say they currently use robotic automation. Even though they understand where the industry is headed, as evidenced by 51 percent of CEOs in the process of adopting bots or planning to do so.

But of the 200 senior supply chain executives surveyed by Berkshire Gray, making apparel isn’t exactly on their priority list. As many as 62 percent say they are likely to use automation to support packaging/labeling, while 59 percent would use it to sort items. 58 percent will make use of technology for returns and refunds.

Siemens has taken the time to collaborate with companies wanting to make automated clothing manufacturing a reality. The company has partnered with the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Robotics (ARM), a Department of Defense-funded organization that aims to make robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence accessible to American manufacturers large and small.

Early work integration for teams sewing machines With collaborative robot systems and an end-effector design capable of lifting and controlling one large layer of fabric. Recent projects have built on these developments to be able to automate more advanced operations such as quilting, fabric merging, pocket setting and curve stitching.

The technology behind machine sewing

Then the two companies switched to Cebua company that wants to address a common problem that prevents robots from interfering with garment production — technology often struggles trying to work with weak, stretchy, or stretchy fabrics, and so can’t start the sewing process.

“Almost all other current approaches to automation in this field are very complex, both technically and in terms of the actual machines,” Cebu founder John Zorno told Rivet. “They’re mechanically complex or do a lot of work digitally, leave a lot of places to break things, and get expensive and over-engineered. They’re also ironically very limited in their capabilities because most of the solutions available are too focused on certain specific tasks like pocket setup.”

Since the machines are also very expensive, according to Zornow, the initial investment and maintenance costs are also high. To make things more difficult, he said, downtime can be significant.

“As a result, you kind of find this model where even though there are a lot of tools, they’re not really used,” Zorno said.

Instead of teaching the robots how to handle the fabric, Sewbo temporarily hardens the fabric with a non-toxic polymer, letting industrial off-the-shelf robots fabricate garments from the stiff fabric, just as if they were working with sheet metal.

Automated automatic sewing machine works on fibrous fabric after using a stiffening agent.

ARM Institute

Zorno told Rivet that using the hardening agent was a “major breakthrough” that made technological innovation possible.

“The kind of extreme complexity of dealing with fabrics was always the obvious problem that robots would struggle with,” Zorno said, noting that the resilience of water-soluble thermoplastic polymers during 3D printing inspired their use in the garment stiffening process.

Canvas panels can be shaped and welded before being permanently sewn together. Once finished, the finished garment is washed to remove the stiffening agent, leaving a soft, fully stitched garment.

Besides working with Sewbo, Siemens’ research in automated clothing manufacturing eventually grew to include Levi’s and Bluewater Defense LLC, a small American manufacturer of military uniforms. They received $1.5 million in grants from the Pittsburgh-based AMR Institute to pilot the technology.

Since the use cases for machine sewing are still few and far between at the moment, Zorno believes several things need to happen before the technology can truly take over the manufacture of garments. First of all, Sewbo and other players in the industry will have to cut costs to the point where the manufacturer is willing to buy the technology en masse and spread it more widely.

“We need to be able to expand capabilities so we can provide that flexible functionality. Right now, it’s an R&D demo. So when we do something, it’s a demo that we’ve created and we’ll be sewing the pockets,” Zornow said. “We’re showing our machine that’s programmed to sew pockets, and it can do it—and that’s great—but eventually manufacturers will want to do it without us. They’ll just need very simple systems that are reliable, cheap, and easy to use.”

Zorno believes Sewbo has reached that inflection point, where “we have a lot of basic skills—enough that we’ve now reached the bottom line at which I think an American manufacturer can profitably use these machines. Now, we’re shifting gears to marketing, and we’re taking this , We package it into a product and put it on the factory floor.”

Saitex seeks to capitalize on the growth of robotics

Sanjeev BahlFounder and CEO of a denim manufacturing company in Vietnam Cytexprepares to install its first experimental Sewbo machine at B Corp’s 52,000-square-foot jeans factory in Downtown Los Angeles.

Zorno said he hopes to prove robotics integration at Saitex by the end of 2023, before considering the possibility of limited-term expansion.

“We will have the robots do some of the work and they will hand over the workers to do the rest,” Zorno said. “And that will actually have a final product in the end. If we improve worker productivity by X percent, then, there is really value there, and they end up with products that they can sell.”

Bahl has always been a major proponent of bringing in the apparel manufacturing Back to the United States He believes that robotics technology could be another step in achieving this.

“if [the machine] “I think there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a large scale,” Pahl told Reuters. [jeans] Manufacturing is here in the US again.”

Currently, Saitex uses robotic arms at their Los Angeles facility to spray each pair of jeans during the denim fade process. The robotic arms are controlled by proprietary software designed to spray each pair of jeans without error. An AI-powered function records a human sprayer, analyzes the process and uses the data to enable the robot to copy the same spraying technique.

Other players are entering the field of automated clothing manufacturing. One such example is Germany-based Robotextile, which wants to eliminate the challenges that textiles can bring to the manufacturing process, particularly when a worker loads a sewing machine by hand. The startup uses robots and handles to automatically remove layers of fabric from a cut-to-size pile and feed them individually to the next production step, without picking up the bottom layer of fabric in the process.

The jury is still out on the impact of bots on work

The question, as in all tales of automation, is how any expansion of robotics will affect a company like Levi Strauss & Co. or Saitex Man power.

The International Labor Organization estimates that robots will replace 64 percent of textile, clothing and footwear workers in Indonesia, 86 percent in Vietnam and 88 percent in Cambodia.

But while there is current Labor shortageRobots may be a welcome addition to the business in the near term. More than half (57 percent) of executives believe that labor shortages have hindered their ability to meet demand, according to the Berkshire Gray study. And while fewer young people are applying for supply chain jobs, 71 percent of executives believe bot automation is necessary.

This does not mean that employees and robots cannot coexist. The study said that 51 percent of executives believe that implementing automation will increase employee satisfaction, and 43 percent believe that it will reduce employee turnover.

“Almost every time, all managers want to talk about the challenges they face in their plant,” Zorno said. “A lot of these plants have high turnover rates, so kind of a typical figure that I’ve heard is 10 percent a month. If a plant has 30,000 sanitation workers working for them, that means they have to go hire and train 3,000 workers every month, just to keep lights to keep their existing business. That’s a story I’ve heard many times now, so it seems like a short-term effect is likely to mitigate some of these problems.”

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