Smart automation brings robots and clothing design to the same chic party

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Robots may still seem futuristic to some, but automation technologies are already widely used in many industries, from manufacturing, assembly, packaging and packaging to exploration of the earth. and space, surgery, weaponry, laboratory research and mass production.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, it is expected that three million industrial robots will be in use by 2018 and that by 2020, the global stock of operational industrial robots will increase from around 1,828,000 units to more than 3 million. ‘units. This represents an average annual growth rate of 14% in just two years. Meanwhile, Interact Analysis predicts that by 2023 all regions will have exceeded 2019 robot delivery levels, including China. and North America with the highest growth rates.

Robotics and artificial intelligence are said to cause disruption across the industry as the pandemic has prompted companies to accelerate the deployment of new technologies to reduce costs, improve productivity and be less dependent on real people.

Lawn mower-sized robots move around the shelves in Amazon’s fulfillment center. (Photo by Grant HINDSLEY / AFP)

Robots become next-level sewing machines

In a recent report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), it was concluded that “a new generation of intelligent machines, powered by rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, could potentially replace a large part existing human jobs “.

Atlanta-based SoftWear Automation wants to make one billion t-shirts a year in the United States using robots. The robotics company, which was launched in 2012, had a working prototype in two years with help from the Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center and a contract with DARPA.

Development of a production line for mass production of shirts began in 2017, and the company signed a contract with a Chinese clothing manufacturer to set up a large production unit in Arkansas. Although the deal fell through, SoftWear is focused on opening its clothing factories.

Are robots putting jobs at risk?

Over 20 billion T-shirts a year are produced by factories, most of them outside the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average US sewing machine operator earns $ 28,000 per year. The sum is more than in many countries where many T-shirts are actually made, such as China, Vietnam or Guatemala.

These positions could be at risk with the introduction of sewing robots. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), robots could replace nearly 90% of textile, clothing and footwear workers in Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries that employ millions of people and contribute greatly to the local economy.

Sewbo to tackle the challenges of automation

Initially, it was concluded that sewing is difficult to automate because the fabric is woven and stretched while working with it. Seattle-based software developer Jonathan Zornow created an industrial robot called Sewbo to tackle the problem. The fabric is handled and made compatible with the automated machine with a water soluble stiffener.

After this process, the robot can manipulate the fabric like a sheet of metal or plastic. The robot can then cut, turn over, sew and move the pieces of fabric with precision. After the garment is finished, it is soaked in hot water to remove stiffness and return the fabric to its original shape.

SoftWear has since raised US $ 30 million, including a US $ 2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. Palaniswami Rajan, CEO of SoftWear, said it would take tens of millions of dollars to produce a billion t-shirts each year. In addition, the company will need several facilities, with its sewing robots and skilled workers.

Rajan said Sewbot can produce a shirt every 50 seconds. By running continuously, a line of work can manufacture just over 620,000 shirts per year, and Rajan expects a continuous number of 2,000 work robots to reach the billion mark.

Want a progressive workforce?  Don't encourage your organization to fear robots.

Do you want a progressive workforce? Don’t encourage your organization to fear robots. Source: Shutterstock

The future of automation and jobs

Suspicions of robots moving people and destroying jobs have been raised, but some argue that in the long run, automation will decentralize manufacturing, creating new and better jobs in many other places. Rajan said SoftWear would hire fewer people than the traditional t-shirt maker, but believes his company will create better-paying jobs for the people who maintain the machines. In addition, the company intends to develop and train the workforce, which will ultimately lead to fast and agile production.

Sewing robot manufacturers have pointed out that even an automated line requires a certain number of workers, and they believe that if companies repatriate production to their home countries, it will help boost the local economy. However, it should be noted that the manpower required to operate an automated line is significantly less than that of a traditional factory, so even if a local economy benefits from new technologies around the world, there will certainly be losses. jobs.


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