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Non-Expert Makes Invention That Allows Robots to Sew Clothes -- How?

Feb 17, 2017 12:18 PM EST

Jonathan Zornow, a freelance web developer, has accidentally stumbled upon an amazing feat -- make the world's first robotically-sewn garment. How did he do it?

Cloths, particularly jeans, is a difficult textile to stitch for robots due to its propensity for wrinkling. However, Zornow used a water-soluble polymer that stiffens fabric for easier sewing, and can then be un-stiffen by just adding warm water. The concept was featured in a piece from Make Magazine that discusses water-soluble support structures for 3D prints.

The strange tale is courtesy of an episode of the series "How It's Made" that taught viewers how to make blue jeans. According to Singularity Hub, Zornow noticed how humans were always involved in all ths steps of jeans creation. He thought this was odd given the fact that researchers have spent millions of dollars into the automatiom of garment sewing since the 1980s.

He then realized that robots find it "difficult" because fabrics are themselves complex. Robots are good in stuff that are taught to them in their programming, but fabrics pose an extra challenge because of their tendecy to unexpectedly wrinkle. 

Zornow came up with a solution -- what if he can stiffen clothes so they can be handled mechanically? The standard approach to such a problem is to make high-end machines to handle the complex material, but Zornow took a different route and came up with a simpler solution.

In order to test his idea, Zornow used an off-the-shelf robotic arm he rented. The project was announced last year, and Zornow was the first one to make a robot sew garment. Now, he wants to turn the project into a full-time business. He was even invited to a robotics manufacturing consortium sponsored by the US Department of Defense.

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