The year 2017 will probably be remembered for the resurgence of automation in apparel manufacturing. Almost a quarter-century ago, several experts wrote-off complete automation and robotics as nonviable for apparel manufacturing. What followed next was the empowerment of workers and emergence of teamwork, though not fully penetrated to the Asian manufacturing hub.
While Germans gave us another proof of their depth in fundamentals of manufacturing with Industry 4.0 framework, several brave-heart organisations just lapped up the idea to step up their efforts towards full automation or robotics. Sewbo’s idea of stiffening the fabric isn’t entirely new, earlier also researchers tried intermediate stiffening of fabric by liquid ammonia to handle by robots during sewing. It is just sheer coincidence that old ideas, which failed due to lack of enabling technologies in past, are becoming possible now due to the multiplication of processing power and miniaturization of processors.
Softwear Automation’s sewbots may have solved the fabric handling in 2D plane, the fabric handling during sewing in 3D plane is not fully solved yet. Apart from hardware automation, the software automation (better say integration) will also grow rapidly.
I predict few areas that will see the adoption of full automation are like camera-based defect inspection, and line balancing in sewing floor. Earlier, computerisation effort used the logic of analysing past data to predict future, however, with AI becoming affordable technically as well as economically, it will be an interesting field of application.