Continuing from day one, my first stop was at Advanced Innovative Technologies. They sell mostly heat transfer equipment like fusing, embellishing and sublimation machines that can be used in smaller production environments. They also sell material handling units (trucks, racks and carts) and fabric inspection machines. In this case, I was most interested in the 24″ continuous fusing machine but they also have 8″ and 16″ units. The size refers to the opening length between the rollers, the full width you feed pieces into aka belt width. The person I spoke with was Michael Adams who wasn’t wild talking to me at first but he warmed up and proved very helpful. Marty was helpful by phone and mentions there are articles about the sublimation equipment on their site.
In addition to the entry (should be plural, I’ve written but not posted them yet) I wrote before, the first step to selecting a machine, means buying something that can handle the size of cut pieces you need to attach the fusible interfacing to. For example, if you’re fusing jacket fronts or other large pieces, you’d need a machine that can fuse the widest width front you’re cutting (off topic but related: fusing machine costs are just one area in which the making of plus sizes incurs higher costs). Since I’ve mostly been a coat maker, I was interested in the 24″ width machine. I also got a price quote for the 16″ machine. I don’t know why someone would want an 8″ machine unless they were doing something very specialized and limited so I didn’t price those.
Michael said you need to factor three things in a fusing machine: time, temperature and pressure. He said pressure is calculated in barres per square inch and/or PSI. Select a machine based on the specifications of the fusible you use most. There are two basic types of machine, pneumatic and mechanical. The costs are the same but the pneumatic is better and lasts longer (mechanical wears out). However with the pneumatic, you’ll need a 1 to 2 CFM compressor but this isn’t a big deal. A compressor you buy at Home Depot will be fine, a 10-25 gallon tank. As I wrote before, the machines take 220 three phase and most are 1600 watts. The machine operates at a maximum speed of 26 feet per minute. Just because it runs that fast Does Not Mean You Should run it that fast because it depends on the heat exposure time required by your particular type of interfacing. The pneumatic machine is a cinch (!) to adjust. Pressure on the 16″/24″ is calculated at 3/4 KG per square centimeter.
You can see all the specs for these machines on their site but the costs aren’t listed. The price for the 24″ model #2024SC is $7,950 (new) with an optional exit cooling conveyor for $800. Note: you can skimp on the exit conveyor but you’ll need to rig something to catch the pieces. I cannot -cannot- recommend handling the hot fused pieces as they come off the rollers because with hot glue, you can torque those goods unintentionally. Maybe it doesn’t matter with most stuff but if you need to match a stripe or pattern, spring for the extra cost. The cost of the 16″ machine model #2016SC is $5,950 with $800 for the exit conveyor. Weight on the machines ranges from 105 to 115 kg. Out of all the machines I saw at the show, if I were in the market to get a new continuous fusing machine, I’d buy one of these. One downside, the kill switch wasn’t very accessible from the front of the machine particularly if you are short and assuming your hand is stuck in the works. The Reliant machines (larger, pricier and fancier) were better in this respect. Reliant is a good buy for larger operations needing a wider belt machine. Their people were nice and helpful to us too.
After that I visited Robeson Sewing Machine company. I scarcely rated a glance from Greg Fowler although Eric was greeted readily. JC has had dealings with this company and seems to be very happy with the service and products. They sell a lot of used and reconditioned equipment and have a good reputation as far as I can tell. Check their site from time to time for the latest deals. As you can imagine, their stock rotates and they have specials from time to time. In spite of my reception, they’d be my first stop for automated used machines.
Eric and I visited the Eton booth, I was very very surprised at how cordially we were received there. Honestly, I was looking at it from afar because Eton is a huge company, with complex handling systems that I don’t think would interest many of you -and I told them so as to spare their effort- but James Hoerig (VP of sales) didn’t care that we were piddley sized and gave us the spiel anyway. Eton is a class act. Basically, Eton is an overhead conveyor system, conveyor in the sense it conveys, moves parts and finished goods from place to place. They had an operational system running in the booth with accompanying video. There’s video on their site too (very cool). Their system moves WIP from operator to operator; I’d only thought of these conveyance systems as being useful in inventory and distribution. James explained that in certain types of manufacturing -parachutes for instance- conveyance systems are obligatory and it makes sense if you think about it although I never had. The conveyors have to be installed over 20 feet up (or did he say 30 feet?) for big products like that. These systems are very useful when making oversized products to include items like comforters and blankets.
Another booth not to be missed was the “Cool Zone” -it was huge- run by TC2, toward whom -as you should know by now- I never miss an opportunity to express my irritation that they have the nerve to charge 20,000 bucks for the results of the Sizing USA study, the funding of which having been provided by the US taxpayer. Every intro I write about TC2 mentions this. In my defense, I have deliberately placed them under “sites I don’t like but visit anyway” since that is guaranteed to get them a lot more traffic than they would get if I stuck them elsewhere and I wouldn’t have done that if I really didn’t want you to visit. Word has it they don’t like it but buck up TC2! My husband’s site is listed there too and he takes it as humorously as it is intended to be. If TC2 were ever to price the study affordably, I’d probably be even more unhappy as I wouldn’t have anything to complain about.
TC2, thus properly introduced, sponsored the Cool Zone, a consortium of booths highlighting the latest advances in the trade. Others will be writing it about so I’ll be sketchy but basically, you were supposed to sign up, get scanned (they had a full body scanner there) and after going through all of the presentations, were to get a tee shirt that had been made on site, to fit you. Tukatech was part of it and this other company (darn it, don’t remember the name) but they had a sweater knitting machine that did the whole ball of wax -without seaming- including collars and cuffs (it looked stitched) and genuine, I kid you not, underarm expansion gussets. JC said his back of the envelope costs were $16 per unit. The machine costs 180K and takes 30-40 minutes to knit an adult sized sweater.
The stitchers from TC2 were cool. They said it was a great place to work and really enjoyed their jobs. Oh, I forgot to mention that TC2 runs manufacturing lots among many many other things. You could actually go and spend a week there and not see it all. TC2 is kind of like the Smithsonian of apparel research and practices. I’d like to go sometime myself -if they’ll let me in the place. Maybe I should start being nicer? Seriously, it’s like the apparel industry learning equivalent of Disneyland. TC2 offers some seminars and consulting too including lean manufacturing but I don’t know anything about their program because they don’t hang out in lean circles on the web. Other people have said TC2 is not very approachable if you’re small but it could depend on who you talk to. As I said, I don’t know much because they’re rather insular which is surprising in this era of web transparency.
I leave you with one last tidbit. Get it now, I may have to pull this down if somebody bellows. These charts and tables reflect summary results for women’s sizing from the USA study. Full size download, including a chart with inch measures that wouldn’t reproduce is here (533kb).