With the development of new manufacturing technologies, the fashion industry has started to adopt advanced mechatronics and robotics to enable efficient production of complex textile composite structures and the whole product.
In terms of wearables, automation has been gradually realized from raw materials harvest to making thread, weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing and finishing. It is reported1 that the robotic 3D knitting machines made customized apparels and shoes and some even successfully generated complex patterns for arbitrary 3D shapes. At the moment, dedicated sewing still remains in the hands of skilled workers. However, there is active and intensive research conducted in this field. For example, Software Automation, a technology start-up, based in the US, created the Sewbot to realize picking up garment pieces and sewing. Because the fabric is floppy and crumbly, the Sewbot relies on high-speed cameras to pinpoint the needle location and adjust the sewing pieces accordingly. Tianyuan, a China-based clothing company producing approximately 10 million casual and sportswear garments annually for brands including Adidas, Reebok and Armani, has recently built a facility with 21 Sewbot lines by investing 20 million USD in Arkansas, USA.
Automation is also assisting the revival of manufacturing in some developed countries. Automated robotics has become one of the most invested fields in the US textile industry in the latest 5 years, and its production of technical textiles is steadily increasing year by year. There have been announcements by foreign-owned textile companies to invest in the Southeast of the US, thanks mainly to the advances of automation in manufacturing, energy availability, policy changes and speed-to-market advantages.