Digital Manufacturing for Your Wardrobe
Tom Spendlove posted on April 18, 2017 |
Kniterate is crowdfunding their desktop version of an industrial knitting machine.

Gerard Rubio found inspiration in 2013, watching fashion students work with outdated knitting machines to finish their projects. As an engineer he had experience working with 3D printers and looked for a way to bring digital manufacturing to the clothing industry. After developing and creating machines to print clothing, he started work on a machine that could transition from the maker realm. Kniterate is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for their first run of production machines.

Kniterate is billed as a digital knitting machine and designed to be a smaller and more affordable version of an industrial knitting machine. The Kniterate proprietary software works like a 3D printer’s slicer program, breaking the digital garment into layers and translating that to knitting strokes.

The campaign suggests a 49” x 25” x 24” space to hold the machine with a surface able to support 287 pounds, and runs on standard 110-120 Volt power. Kniterate has 204 7 gage needles per needle bed, and can knit at up to 0.3 meters per second. The system is driven by a belt and the campaign says that the only maintenance required is changing the needles when they break.

Data is transferred from the app through a USB cable or SD card. The monochrome LCD panel has a menu for file selection, adjusting the speed, and pausing the job. The app is still in the end stages of development, but can currently import images, write text, change fonts, change layers, share designs and make designs private. Even though the control software itself isn’t open source the app and Kniterate system heavily push the idea of making a design and sharing it with the world so the design can be recreated.

It’s impossible not to frame Kniterate as a fabric 3D printer, and then think of all the problems encountered with traditional industrial 3D printers. Six different yarn colors can be used on one job, and each yarn spool will have an independent tensioner. 204 needles will knit every layer of fabric together, and a roller will index the garment at each level. The campaign stresses the research that went into industrial knitting machines and the design that went into Kniterate to make the best possible device, but the massive learning curve of desktop fabrication looms heavy for me. Several garments are built in various campaign videos using prototype machinery. Development of the Kniterate is ongoing and machines are expected to ship in April 2018. The campaign has already blown by its funding goal of $100,000 and will end on May 8, 2017.

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