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Sewbo: A Robot That Could Sew an Entire Garment

Sep 19, 2016 04:52 AM EDT

Robots will be replacing tailors and dressmakers soon enough. Seattle-based startup company Sewbo has created the first robotically sewn T-shirt, which is a step closer to its goal of "creating higher quality clothing at lower costs."

According to Jonathan Zornow, inventor and founder of Sewbo, simple shapes can already be constructed by other automated sewing systems. However, what makes Sewbo stands out is that it's the first time an automated system was able to construct a complete garment, Design News reports.

While it could be difficult for most robotic arms to handle limp and flexible fabrics, Sewbo stiffens the fabric to make it almost cardboard-like using a non-toxic polymer stiffener. The robotic arms would then pick up the pre-cut pieces with the use of suction, and then feeding them into a sewing machine. After the T-shirt is sewn, the robot would drop the garment into hot water to remove the polymer.

"The stiffening process works on every fabric we've tried it with so far," Zornow told Design News. "It's limited to fabrics that can get wet all the way through, so it's not suitable for coated materials, like leather or materials that have been treated to be waterproof." Zornow and his team had already tried the technology with cotton/polyester blends, denim, lace and some upholstery fabrics.

Just recently, Sewbo released a video showing how the new technology works. It shows the Universal Robots UR5 guiding the fabric to a sewing machine to construct a cotton T-shirt. Instead of pins, the fabric is held together by an ultrasonic welder, which is used to temporarily bond the edges of the stiffened pieces of fabric. The Polyvinyl Alcohol plastic stiffener can be heated to become pliable, reshaped and holds both its shape and the garment's when cooled.

According to Zormow, the technology could be used in making uniforms, medical scrubs, upholstery and reusable grocery bags, among others.

Sewbo is not the first company to conceptualize an automated sewing system. A company known as Electroloom is thinking about 3D-printing garments, Engadget reports. Likewise, Adidas is also building a factory in Germany operated by robots.

Read More:
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This New Fabric Could Power Gadgets Through Sun and Movement
Move Over, Sewing! Scientists Discover Self-Healing Fabric Using Special Liquid

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