Will Four-Axis Robotic Seamstresses Replace Human Workers?

How automated textile handling and direct sewing risk jobs.

LOWRY automated sewing machine by SoftWear Automation, Inc. (Image courtesy of SoftWear.)

LOWRY automated sewing machine by SoftWear Automation, Inc. (Image courtesy of SoftWear.)

Textile workers in a manufacturing setting often put a significant amount of labor into producing textile products despite advancements in mass production. 

Since textiles are often flexible, machines have a difficult time handling them with precision when stacking and moving pieces or lining up seams and edges.

Though parts of the manufacturing process may be automated, the textile industry often still requires human labor to line up cut pieces, guide or manoeuver material and operate sewing machines.

However, a new automated textile handling technology uses visual sensors, robotics and computer technology to automate the transfer and sewing of fabric for manufacturing. 

As a result, this new technology may remove the need for human seamstresses from the process.

The LOWRY system is a four-axis robot that can be used for fabric handling, pick and place operations, as well as direct sewing. The system uses a high speed visual sensors to precisely track fabric and prevent distortion during the sewing process.

The system also allows importing of ASTM (DFX) files from popular pattern design software and the ability to fine-tune the parameters using online sewing CAD software before exporting to the LOWRY robot for production.

Thanks to this, the robotic system offers a higher level of precision and accuracy than its human counterparts.

The LOWRY system is also compatible for installation with existing cutters, fabric transfers and sewing machines and can run on a continuous basis, reducing unproductive downtime.

This might be another instance in which jobs are becoming obsolete because machine capabilities can far outstrip those of humans.

SoftWear Automation has developed robotic automation to automate sewing. In this video we see the Cantilever version of LOWRY that is creating button holes in a shirt.

The ability to automate the textile product manufacturing process is an appealing idea. Production speed and throughput can be increased with faster and continuous operation. Fewer manufacturing errors caused by humans and reduced labor costs will save both time and money. 

“Our ‘sewbots’ can revolutionize the design, development and customization of apparel in the same way 3D printing has transformed the design, prototyping and production of durable goods,” said K.P. Reddy, CEO of SoftWear, the company that makes the LOWRY system.

This will all add up to availability of a larger amount of low-cost textile products, including home goods and clothing.

For more information on the SoftWear LOWRY automated sewing system, visit their website.