Equipment manufacturers weigh in on new trends and technologies.
Doing a job right the first times takes preparation, experience and the right tools. From printers to sewing machines, textile equipment manufacturers are incorporating new technologies, reaching new markets and adapting their products to help end users do better work more efficiently.
The sewing machine is a mainstay of the textile industry. While there have been relatively few changes in its basic design, that may be changing with the advent of new lighting and electric motor technology.
Doug Glenn, vice president of sales at Consew Consolidated Sewing Machine Corp., Carlstadt, N.J., points out two game-changing innovations altering the way sewing machines and their components are used. “For more than 100 years, sewing machines have relied on clutch plate technology to operate,” Glenn says. “When you press the pedal, a cork plate makes contact with a spinning motor plate that then engages the sewing mechanism of the machine. Electric servo motors are changing the way sewing machines operate by using electric motors instead of clutch plate technology.”
Consew is manufacturing sewing machines that employ electric motors that improve ease of use, allow for finer adjustments and use a fraction of the electricity that traditional sewing machines do. “Ten years ago, [servo motor powered sewing machines] were upwards of $1,200. Now they are around $100,” says Glenn. “They are affordable and more efficient. When a clutch motor is switched on, it immediately begins to spin, generating heat. An electronic motor is silent when you turn it on. It makes no noise and only draws electricity when you push the pedal down.”
Glenn points out that when he visits a sewing room floor using clutch motors, the noise and heat are palpable. In a room that uses electronic motors, there is a fraction of the noise and very little machine-created heat.
“Running an electronic sewing machine is a lot like operating a home machine. It is extremely adjustable, making it very easy to use for entry level employees and novice sewers,” says Glenn. “You can adjust the max speed without changing the pulley speed of an electronic sewing machine, and you can also control that ramping of the speed in increments, which you can’t do on a clutch motor.”
Consew has also introduced LED lighting technology to its equipment, giving customers a low-cost, long-lasting and adjustable source of lighting. “Conventional sewing equipment has used very poor lighting, and it has always been incandescent, so it is hot,” says Glenn. “That was the old school style. We have recently evolved to use more LED lighting, which works beautifully with sewing equipment. It has no heat and uses little electricity.” Consew has created magnetic LED lighting solutions that can be attached to any metal surface of a sewing machine for the convenience of the operator.
The popularity of printing on fabric has exploded over the last several years, largely due to the aesthetic of printed fabric and the affordability of the printing projects. Dye sublimation printing is now commonplace across the country. The equipment that makes it possible is still evolving, however.
“If you go back to the earlier days of textile printing, there were a lot of old printers adapted for dye sublimation,” says Andrew Oransky, vice president of sales and marketing at Roland DGA Corp., Irvine, Calif. “As the popularity of printing on fabric exploded and entered more mainstream markets, the demand on equipment rose. End users started needing printers that could handle dye sublimation printing without a lot of adaptation.”
Oransky says Roland responded by creating systems ready for textile printing when they come out of the box. “Five or more years ago, if somebody wanted to use a Roland printer for dye sublimation transfer, they would buy a solvent printer, get a different piece of software, go to an ink manufacturer, get a bulk system and essentially cobble together a number of elements to come up with something that worked,” he says. “Not everyone wants to bolt together their own solutions, however. They look to manufacturers to hand them something they can use.”
The precision of laser measuring technology is a perfect match for the textile industry. When hundredths of an inch make a difference in the fit of a cushion or the strength of a seam, accurate measurements are a must. Drew Thornton, national accounts manager for Laser Products Industries, Romeoville, Ill., has also seen a trend toward laser measuring in the marine textile market.
“We are finding out that more people are using our equipment to measure canvas for boats and boat upholstery,” he says. “Some of these guys have also moved away from awning and shade sail manufacturing, but are now coming back to it with the use of our equipment. Our equipment is helping them grow their businesses and allowing them to do more with the skills they have.”
Thornton attributes the increased use to a change in the way people understand laser measuring technology. “We just had a huge project in Little Rock, Ala., that was able to reduce a two-week project to a two-day project with our equipment,” he says. “Typically a company would have to send a crew of workers to measure a project site, stay in hotels near the project, drive there and drive back. The great thing about [laser measuring equipment] is that the measurements are so accurate and our systems are so integrated that you can email them to the shop from the site, have the material cut and sewn, and then shipped to the site in a matter of days instead of weeks.”
The overall trend toward more accurate, lower-cost, and longer-lasting equipment allows equipment manufacturers to expand their business while helping end users create better products faster.
Jake Kulju is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.
SICK Inc., a Minneapolis, Minn.-based manufacturer of sensors, safety systems and automatic identification products for industrial applications, has updated “Guidelines for Safe Machinery–Six Steps to a Safe Machine.” The expanded 180-page, illustrated guide contains safety requirements and guidelines for North America to ensure the safety of machinery and people.
It is designed for manufacturers, systems engineers, designers and all individuals who are responsible for machine safety to illustrate methods of selecting and using protective devices. It briefly outlines laws, regulations and standards for many world regions, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the European Union, and then details six steps to designing a safe machine, including risk assessment, safe machine design, engineering controls, administrative measures, machine validation and operation. The guide is not a product catalog, but rather provides a comprehensive look at application examples, technical information and possible solutions, as well as where to go for additional resources. It
can be downloaded for free.