Textile

6 promising ways automation improves the textiles industry

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Automation has caused substantial changes in many industries, and the textile sector is no exception. Here are six ways textile automation makes the industry better.

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Figure 1: Automation has caused substantial changes in apparel and retail industry.

1.  Assisting companies in meeting new needs

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened globally, many manufacturers pitched in to help meet the growing demand for masks and other protective equipment. Automation made it easier for some of them to pivot successfully.

Eastman Machine provides automated fabric-cutting machines for numerous industries, including textiles. It sent other businesses patterns and computer-created drawings that facilitated changing a machine’s functionality to make personal protective equipment. Their assistance let companies around the world ramp up production when it mattered most. This example shows how expertise in automating textile-related processes can help other sectors, too.

2. Improving options for using recycled textiles

Clothing made with recycled materials is becoming more popular as people choose to make more eco-friendly fashion purchases. However, recycling clothes made of cotton-polyester blends is especially tricky because of the difficulty in untwisting the woven fibers.

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Figure 2: Clothing made with recycled materials is becoming more popular.

H&M recently started using an automated machine to do the job. It’s reportedly the first company to achieve that feat at scale. It even uses recycled water, heat and chemicals in a closed-loop system. The so-called Green Machine came about after a four-year collaboration between multiple organizations. Today’s automation specialists can walk clients through each stage of the process, from concept to debugging, so textile companies of all sizes have access to customized solutions like this one.

3. Enhancing dyeing and finishing efficiency

Achieving a uniform color or finish for fabric is crucial for meeting client expectations. Fortunately, machines exist that facilitate textile automation options for steps such as dyeing the fabric and adding softener to make the material feel more pleasant on the skin.

Many machines on the market allow users to customize the automation level. Moreover, they can set programs in the equipment’s memory to save time when finishing products that a company has made before and manufactures often. Becoming more efficient with these tasks leads to a higher output overall.

4. Streamlining the sewing process

Even as more opportunities arise for companies to use automation in the textile industry, some responsibilities still require humans to tackle them. Until fairly recently, one example of such a task was feeding fabrics into sewing machines.

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Figure 3: Traditional sewing technologies are getting replaced with automated ones.

However, a company called Sewbo temporarily treats fabrics with a water-soluble stiffener, which allows a robotic arm to pick them up and pass them through a sewing machine. The additive to make the product easier for the robot to manage also washes the newly sewn garment with water.

5. Accelerating quality control checks

Textile specialists must inspect fabric rolls and completed garments for defects that could lead to dissatisfied customers. Traditional inspection practices require humans to check numerous aspects, whether examining knitted or woven goods. However, automation can complete the job more quickly while collecting data that shows notable trends to factory managers.

An automated system using connected equipment can check about 30 meters of fabric every minute. It also provides data on useful specifics, such as which types of materials most often have flaws. After decision-makers have that information, they can implement changes to spark lasting improvements.

6. Reducing overall production costs

Many companies pursue fabric automation because they know it’s the best way to stay competitive in an ever-challenging marketplace. Consider the example of a Tianyuan Garments Company factory in Little Rock, Ark. Company leaders signed a development agreement to obtain an automated machine that handles multiple fabric processing steps, including cutting and sewing the material.

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Figure 4: Reducing overall production costs is a must in today’s reality.

The most impressive aspect is that it only needs 22 seconds to complete a T-shirt. A representative said that each garment’s labor cost is just 33 cents, which is cheaper than any market in the world can offer. Even if a company does not automate all of its textile processing steps, the results of bringing automation to one or a few could save money and help brands scale to fulfill customer needs.

Textile automation fits today’s needs

We live in a world where people expect to buy products days or weeks after fashion magazines preview them. At the same time, consumers are increasingly picky and may not give brands additional chances if they disappoint them once.

Many customers who buy fabrics or the items made from them also want assurances that companies that sell them follow fair and legal labor practices that maintain safety and human dignity. Automation is not a guaranteed solution in every case. However, these six examples show that automation has gone a long way in improving the textile sector, and that the potential for even more enhancements exists.

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