According to our most recent Industry Benchmarking Report on SGIA.org, 37.4 percent of the companies surveyed offer sewing or seaming as a service, 69.5 percent of the companies surveyed have cutting/trimming/routing/die-cutting equipment, and 31.6 percent have sewing/seaming equipment.
The definition of "sewing" that is offered by the Textile Exchange is a good one - where sewing involves fastening of fabrics, leather, furs or similar other flexible materials with the help of needle and threads. The examples in this article will touch on traditional sewing and will also introduce the idea of welding certain fabric seams as an alternative to consider when the appropriate fabric (polyesters) are used.
It is interesting to note that two of my personal experiences with fabric/textile finishing have been to observe the process still being done without the use of automated cutting equipment. A large manufacturer of dye-sublimation garments said, "We do a lot of blank apparel that is not printed. So the cost structure of stacking layers and layers of material on a cutting table just costs less money to do. And it is not an inaccurate process. You print a marker and cut a stack of fabric...it costs a lot less money this way - for us. For the dye-sublimated pieces, we use a different process, but it still manual. I think the laser cutters are super cool, but they still require an experienced operator."
A large manufacturer of custom flags had the same basic process. Textile flags were placed on a large table, and then an employee would cut out the graphic using a rotary blade. Both of these operations have looked at the newer laser or rotary knife (drivel wheel) cutters that will be covered here. They think that they will one day be in place in their facilities, but for now their process remains unchanged.
However, rotary knife flat-bed cutters have been around for a while and are the way to go if you are cutting anything besides polyesters. The lasers are newer and will catch on, if for no other reason than they will end up being more efficient.
Sewing and Welding
For a different perspective about sewing and welding, Jordi Carbonell, CEO, Matic S A*, had an excellent point about how it comes into play at the end of the process. At this stage, you have already invested significant time, materials and ink, and a misstep at this juncture costs not only the rework of the job, but the risk of missing a deadline, which can lead to the loss of a client. His takeaways were to concentrate on the workflow (how the material is handled and how efficiently can the operator manage each job) more so than machine speed, and that there is no unique machine for all of your needs. Knowing your application, including material types, will go a long way to prioritizing which piece of equipment will best serve your needs.
对于缝纫和焊接的不同观点，Matic S A *公司的首席执行官Jordi Carbonell对这个过程中如何发挥作用做出了评价。在这个阶段，当我们已经投入了大量的时间、材料和墨水，在这个时候的失误不仅要花费工作的返工时间，还要承担错过最后期限的风险，这可能会导致客户流失。因此，我们应该集中在工作流程上，有效地管理每项工作，而不是机器的速度，没有独特的机器能满足所有需求。此外，了解您的应用程序（包括材料类型）将大大优化您的设备满足您的需求。
Before looking at some of the options to consider when looking at sewing and welding, it's important to cover the different technologies that come into play.
I'll start with hot air welding, which is probably exactly what you think it is. It a specially designed heat gun (or hot air welder) that produces a jet of hot air that softens the parts that you want to join. Some advantages are that it is a low-cost option. In theory, the length of the weld is endless, you can start and stop through the process, and it certainly takes up little space. Some of the disadvantages is that it can create waves because it has no cooling bars, you need a very experienced operator, and the quality of the weld is not as good.
Next up is hot wedge welding, which uses a heated steel wedge positioned at the seam point providing heat for melting the fabric. The advantages and disadvantages are the same as the hot air welding with one additional disadvantage - the steel wedge will allow the heat to build up when not in use, and when you initially reapply to the fabric it can sometimes burn the fabric at the initiating point.
High-frequency welding is the joining of materials by supplying high-frequency energy in the form of an electromagnetic field (27.12 MHz) and pressure to the material you want to join. The electrical energy causes the molecules within the material to start moving, which generates heat and causes the material to soften and then fuse together. This is more typically used for PVC; however, it can also be used for polyurethane, and it can weld more than two layers at the same time. Some advantages are a very homogeneous heating and it is easy (and fast) to changeover to different welding widths. Disadvantages are that it is a very expensive technology and not always successful for fabrics, but it is used on awning materials, canvas, tents and automobile mats.
Lastly is impulse welding, which is a process where layers are heated and fused to form a welded seam by pressing them together in close contact with a shielded electric heating element. The heating element (or electrode) is heated up by controlled pulsed current. Advantages are that it is one of the easiest to handle, welding of different textiles, PVC or polyurethanes without welding tape is possible, reasonably priced, low energy consumption, and automatic guides and folding systems are available. Disadvantages are that it is not as strong a weld as high frequency, and the machine is stationary with a max electrode width of 30 millimeters (mm).
For sewing, Matic offers the Cronos in three varieties from basic to the ultimate. The Cronos has auto-feeding and cutting along with guides to help produce banners quickly and efficiently. The automatic conveyor belt helps the operator manage larger banners or silicone edge graphics (SEG). Another feature is the conveyor lock for producing curved seams for teardrop flags. Matic also has the Hercules, a unit designed to join and hem canvas with a mobile sewing head that is synchronized with the sewing speed. The Zeus is designed for automatic finishing for curtains, as it will do the lateral seams and sewing the tape with rings all in one machine. Lastly is the Orion, which is good for PVC-coated fabrics.
For welding, Matic has the Ares, a manual machine for welding fabrics for roller blinds, sun blinds and banners (you'll recall that welding is useful for polyester materials). The Ares (like the Cronos) comes in a number of different configurations from the Ares Plus that automates the operations such as overlaps, hems, welds, reinforcements and zippers. Ares Plus uses electric impulse welding technology. The Ares Flat Hem also uses electric impulse welding for automatic creation of flat hems and hems with pocket and bottomrails. The Ares Flat Hem can flat hem up to 5 meters in a single stroke.
对于焊接，Matic 有一个手动机器焊接窗帘、遮阳帘和横幅织物。这种手动机器有不同的配置，能自动化操作，如重叠、下摆、焊缝、增援和拉链。Ares Plus使用了电脉冲焊接技术，扁平下摆还使用了电脉冲焊接自动创建下摆，平坦的下摆可以一次下降5米。
Miller Weldmaster* offers a number of different products, including the Digitran for sewing. The Digitran also has a transport system that is synced with the sewing machine to ensure accurate and precise material handling. "As the popularity of silicone edge graphics (SEG) continues, what is most critical to this operation is the ratio to which we apply the SEG to the digital textile. We recognize it is important for our customers to have a nice tight fit, when fitting the printed graphic into their framing system - and the Digitran system accommodates this accordingly," says Jeff Sponseller, CEO, Miller Weldmaster. The Digitran system can also integrate a T3 or T300 Extreme welding machine into the line.
Miller Weldmaster首席执行官Jeff Sponseller说：“Miller Weldmaster* 提供了许多不同的产品，包括Digitran缝纫。Digitran还有一个与缝纫机同步的运输系统，以确保能精确的处理物料。随着有机硅边缘图形（SEG）的普及，对这一操作最关键的是将SEG应用于数字纺织品的比例，我们认识到，对于我们的客户来说， 将印刷的图形安装到框架系统中，Digitran系统可以相应地适应这种情况。除此之外，Digitran系统还可以将T3或T300 Extreme焊机整合到生产线中。”
Cutting with Textiles
I talked with Steve Aranoff with MCT Digital Finishing about their new flatbed cutter which can be outfitted as a traditional driven wheel cutter and/or can be set up as a laser cutter. The MCT VersaTech2, a 2016 Product of the Year winner in the category of Finishing - Equipment - Routers/Cutters, has the ability to change the belt that is used to convey the material which is being cut. For traditional cutting or routing they use the standard gray belt. The exchangeable laser belt has a lightweight aluminum surface that is thick enough not to be burned by the laser. The belt is laced and comes in 43-inch sections to allow for easy on-off operation (the sections make it possible to replace segments of the belt instead of the entire belt in the event that it becomes damaged).
我和MCT Digital Finishing公司的Steve Aranoff谈到了他们的新型平板切割机，它可以作为一个传统的动轮式切割机配备，同时也可以设置为激光切割机。MCT VersaTech2是2016年度精加工，切割机类产品中的最佳产品，能够更换用于传送被切割材料的传送带。对于传统的切割或雕刻设备，一般使用的是标准的灰色带。可交换的激光带具有足够厚的轻质铝表面，不会被激光灼伤。
According to Aranoff, he sees two kinds of users for their equipment - power users doing 100-percent fabric/textile who were previously using hot knives, which gave the finishing piece a sealed edge. This user has the opportunity to save around 8 people per shift by laser cutting versus hot knives, with a significant reduction in waste. The cutting (with the laser) gets done in a more organized manner, reducing the time sewers are sitting around waiting for the next job. Ganging jobs with automated cutting reduces the cost of cutting and sewing, and their typical ROI is less than a year. The second group of users doesn't have a consistent fabric work flow - or the fabric they are working with isn't primarily polyester. For this group they use a combination of rotary or driven wheel cutter (it's actually an octagonal blade set up) and laser. One of the downsides in using a driven wheel cutter is the limit on the types of cutting, such as cutting into corners and the need to be watchful that the fabric isn't moved by the cutting process.
The driven wheel cutter is not limited by the type of material, though it is limited by the weight of the fabric. A vacuum can only do so much, and the wheel can cause the fabric to move, creating errors in the cut path. With the laser, you are limited to cutting polyesters only, and just like the hot knife method you end up with a sealed edge. Because the process doesn't involve contact with the fabric, the chance of it moving is remote. Since most flag and banner material is 100-percent polyester, the laser option is a good way to go if that is the type of work you are doing. The MCT also has a dual-roll capability which allows for cutting two types of fabrics at the same time.
I asked Carbonell for his pros and cons when comparing a laser cutting system to a knife system when cutting polyesters. His first thought was that the laser technology cuts and seals all in one pass and that the laser allows for more precise and fine cutting. And with a knife system, the operator must be aware of the wear and tear on the knife tool so that it is not allowed to dull and catch and pull the fabric while cutting. The Matic Helios laser uses a low power laser for contactless cutting of textiles.
Finally, I reached out to Beatrice Drury, Director of Marketing & Communications, Zund America, Inc.* Zund uses a driven rotary tool (DRT) for cutting textiles and industrial fabrics. Woven and non-woven fabrics are made from natural or synthetic fiber. This tool uses a decagonal blade to cut allowing the user to choose between a "low" and "high" RPM setting (low is for materials with lower melting points). The DRT produces considerably less drag force on the textile, resulting in a clean cut of each individual fiber. This tool is recommended for garments, home textiles and some industrial fabrics (awnings, and banners). For tougher textiles and composites with carbon, glass or Aramid fiber content, Zund recommends their more heavy-duty Power Rotary Tool (PRT).
之后，我从Zund America公司的市场总监Beatrice Drury那了解到，Zund使用的是一个驱动的旋转工具（DRT）来切割纺织品和工业织物，机织和无纺布由天然纤维或合成纤维制成。该工具使用十角形刀片进行切割，允许用户在“低”或“高”的RPM设置之间进行选择（对于熔点较低的材料，该设置“低”选项）。DRT在织物上产生的阻力要小得多，从而使每根纤维都能被清理干净。 此工具适用于服装、家用纺织品和一些工业织物（遮阳篷和横幅）。 对于具有碳纤维、玻璃纤维或芳纶纤维含量的纺织品和复合材料，应该使用更加复杂的Power Rotary 工具。
There you have it - at least for now. The challenge in covering a topic as broad as finishing is there are so many different materials and so many different applications that there will always be information left on the table to be covered the next round.