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The Robotic Assembly of Garments – An ARM Institute Project Highlight

Despite being universally adopted throughout traditional manufacturing, industrial robots have failed to find a place in garment sewing applications due to the robots’ difficulties in handling limp textiles. This makes the global apparel industry strongly dependent on manual labor.

The outputs from an Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM Institute) funded technology project titled “Robotic Assembly of Garments” created considerable impact by taking the first steps in revolutionizing this trillion-dollar industry via a new robotic assembly process that stiffens garment pieces by laminating its fabric with water-soluble thermoplastic polymer.

This flexible robotic system was developed to handle and assemble fabric pieces into garments. Traditional sewing machines were controlled via Robot Operating System (ROS) to achieve synchronized operation with the robot. The polymer utilized in the process can be easily removed through washing and can be recycled for multiple process cycles. The technology was successfully demonstrated at Bluewater Defense production facility and is being further matured for more complex sewing operations.