Automatic Fabric Cutting and Spreading Machines
Automation in cutting room: Pattern that are developed or digitized in a CAD system are simultaneously prepared in a suitable format for cutout by an automatic cutter. Lines, notches, drill holes, and other marks are detected owing to the cutter software. Cutting through an automatic cutter is not only fast but also extremely precise. Further features can also be introduced automatically, e.g., printed labels. Automatic cutting systems connected to CAD software enormously optimize the use of materials. In a short time it is possible to compare the use of materials for types of markers: one or more size markers as separated or combined sizes. Information about results is integrated into PLM and production costs for materials can then be calculated (Fig-1). Automatic cutter PROCUT from Bullmer Figure-1: Automatic cutter PROCUT from Bullmer Another advantage, which is not negligible, is that the operation of a system can be carried out by one person. For cutting, fabric is placed on a worktable. The laying machine is part of the cutting table; optionally it is selected by the cutter manufacturer. The laying system facilitates manipulating fabric rolls and the placement of individual fabrics into position is much more precise than laying them by hand. Edges lie exactly one against the other, and thus waste is substantially reduced. The automatic cutting method generally used in the apparel industry is laser cutting; less commonly, ultrasonic cutting is used. Laser cutting is extremely precise and fast. It is possible to cut almost all kinds of material, but it is necessary to think about combustion gases when cutting materials with a fluorine or chlorine content. When cutting several layers of synthetic materials, the layers can become connected at the edges owing to the melted mass. Hand cutter devices are still used. Beside the classical scissor band saw, jigsaws and round knifes are often used. Cutting by hand is not controlled by software, and the person who uses the saw or knife cuts according to a pattern that is usually printed on paper. The decision to use this slow kind of cutting depends on the finances of the company but also the amount of production and the diversity of the collection. Within the context of Industry 4.0, the interaction between the pattern marker and the handling of the cut pieces is of primary importance. Furthermore, pattern pieces have to be identified after cutting. Nearly all cutter machines include a labeling system that mark pattern pieces with words or codes used by the company and its quality management system. The cutting bridge outfits the equipment for labeling and ultrasonic sealing, an inkjet printer, and other optional tools. Between cutting and joining, it is still necessary to use physical labor because no technical device exists that transports cut pieces safely to the sewing or joining station. The first reason is that the fabric is usually flexible; the second is that there is a chance of mixing of different sizes. Standard grippers to hold and transfer the materials work on the basis of a vacuum or needles and therefore are not suitable for clothing fabric. In the area of technical textiles, it is far more easy because the fabrics are less sensitive. Because of this manipulation, using gripper has become more of a standard (Fig.-2). Automation in sewing section: Complete automation of the joining process in clothing technology will never be possible. The human hand still needs to control the sewing process, which directs, positions, and composes substances. Despite this, more and more individual parts of production are being automated. For example, items such as neck openings for polo shirts, piped pockets, attached pockets, and zippers are manufactured using computerized numerical control-programmed sewing machines. Juki, PFAFF Industrial, and Dürkopp Adler developed sewing machines and suitable accessories for numerous sewing processes. Sewing with automatic sewing machines delivers highly professional results in the shortest time that a person would never be able to achieve (Fig-3). Figure-3: PFAFF industrial automatic sewing system. Many experts say that sewing processes will be increasingly robotized, but complete automation will not be possible in the near future. Automation levels of more than 95% as in the automotive industry cannot be reached. Clothing styles change too quickly and there are nearly countless cuts of forms. With the development of robots, it is within reason, however, that more and more individual processes of the production will become automated. In this way, smaller companies will be able to keep the prices of the outfits at an affordable level and still offer individualized clothing. Despite difficult conditions because of their soft material properties, the automated processing of fabrics is the focus of several ongoing projects. For example, Adidas successfully developed the fully automated production of shoes in the so-called “Speedfactory.” The shoe sole is printed using a 3D printer and the shaft is knitted as one piece. The connection of the sole and the shaft is made by a robot that manipulates all necessary components. The customer can design his or her own pattern and obtain a shoe in the exact size.