[FoRK] The Robot's New Clothes

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sat Jun 16 20:11:57 PDT 2012


Finally, some action.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/fully-automatic-sewing-of-garments.html
JUNE 11, 2012

Fully Automatic Sewing of Garments Using Micro-Manipulation

   FBO - DARPA has provided $1.25 million for Softwear Automation to develop a complete work-cell called a Beta Unit for fully 
automated sewing. That includes a numerically controlled sewing machine that tracks fabric movement by observing passing threads 
and under servo control moves the fabric under the needle stitch by stitch. Complete production facilities that produce garments 
with zero direct labor is the ultimate goal.

The military’s annual clothing budget at $4 billion dollars and employs about 50,000 people.

The US annual import of sewn items is approximately $100 Billion per year.

The technology proposed appears to allow cutting and sewing at costs LESS THAN in China. There is only one basic innovation 
required; that the metric of motion should not be meters or inches but rather thread count in the fill and warp directions. 
(Wovens and leather like materials need a slightly different measure.) This leads to THREE fundamental technical issues that 
have largely been solved and discussed below as well as more routine engineering development.


The automation process proposed by Dickerson works something like this. First, an “overhead, pick-and-place robot” grabs the 
necessary pieces of fabric and places them at the head of a sewing machine. The appliance itself would be equipped with “machine 
vision” capabilities, specific enough to spot and track individual fabric threads. That intel would “provide fabric location 
information” to actuators that operate the sewing machine’s needle and thread, and “budgers” — motorized balls, underneath the 
sewing machine that latch onto the fabric via vacuum seal — that move the material to and fro.

Automated Garment Manufacturing System Using Novel Sensing and Acuation (10 pages, 2010)

Attempts to automate the sewing process of garment manufacturing have employed substitutes for human guidance of fabric into 
somewhat conventional sewing machines. A new approach has been proposed and partially verified in prototype form. It consists of 
several subsystems responsible for 1) gross fabric motion, 2) precision detection of the fabric location and 3) exact placement 
of the needle in the fabric. Gross motion employs steerable rollers capable of moving the fabric. Fine fabric motion employs 
vision sensing technology to count threads in the fabric. Exact placement employs servo controlled dogs for moving the fabric to 
exactly place the needle. This paper will explain the concept and the extent of verification of its realization.

Based on the work to date, the approach proposed seems to be technically feasible, although additional work on the thread 
counting vision system is needed and is underway. It also appears that the approach can be economically viable, based on other 
evaluations. Obviously, a fully functioning, integrated system will demand much more work and significant funding.




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