SPESA Trip Report: Kathleen pt.2

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).

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  1. J C Sprowls says:

    Big Irv did all the hard work of getting prices and throughput figures on the whole garment knitters. I just churned them through Excel to figure out the garment costs.

    The manufacturer of the whole garment knitting machine is Shima Seiki and Big Irv has shared more information about it in the forum.

    Incidentally, that $16 figure is only the depreciation of the knitter based on the garments it would produce during the depreciation period (7 1/2 yrs). I use obscure calculations like those to determine the value a machine needs to contribute while it occupies floor space. Ops guys have all kinds of shortcut calculations on their slide rule :-)

    I’ll share more on my specific exploits, later. But, as some comparison:
    –A top-of-the-line Durkopp-Adler keyhole buttonhole machine is $.11 per garment (no, I didn’t break it down per buttonhole – just the whole jacket).
    –Likewise, the DA automated pocket welter was $.12 per garment (again, whole jacket).
    –The lapel roll padder from Strobel is $.06 per jacket

  2. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Kathleen, could you please explain the chart numbers? Along the top, side and above the colored columns. They didn’t make a ton of sense even on the big version, but I could just be not getting it today. :-)

  3. Big Irv says:

    I read this post with interest, especially the initial reception some companies pay to visitors stopping by their exhibits.

    I spent more time amongst the fabric/trim exhibitors than the equipment or technology guys, and I found most in this sector to be attentive and outgoing.

    My discussion with Anthony McBryan of Shima Seiki USA was very enlightening and I commend him on a very professional and honest sales pitch on his knitting equipment. During our discussion, I learned that he is the “pioneer” in the USA seamless knitting world and aside from marketing his firm’s services and equipment, he consults with many brands and retailers.

    He was quite frank that his new technolgy was not going to revolutionize apparel manufacturing, but augment and add another dimension to it. I see only quality goods being made on this type of equipment.

  4. crackers says:

    A note on Robeson, if I may…I was planning on writing a short article over in the forum next week.

    I just bought two machines from them. I was basically in the market for an electronic bar tack machine in order to save money. I spoke with a friend who has one of the largest technical harness and rescue gear manufacturing companies in the USA. He recommended Robeson, stating that they were friendly, honest and their prices were generally excellent. So far, I’ve been amazed by the level of sales support from them and the bar tack machine was cheap enough to justify buying a straight stitch machine with automatic backtacker and undertrimmer to fill up the skid.

    As I said, I’ll write a full report up when I’ve used the machines for a week or two, but to date, I’m extremely happy with Robeson.

  5. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Also, I think it is WAY COOL for a machine to knit a whole garment, especially with underarm gussets! Now if I could just get my mom to knit me some sweaters, hee hee.

  6. Joyce Ireland says:

    I’m not Kathleen, but your comment shows I’m not the only one challenged to interpret those histogram graphs.

    The vertical axis measures the number of people in the sampled population who have a particular seat or waist measurement, the length of which is shown on the horizontal axis.

  7. David Bruner says:

    From [TC]2 – no worries about your comments on [TC]2, but some clarification. The SizeUSA study was funded in part by taxpayer dollars but was also funded through the sponsorship of many private apparel companies (over 60 companies have sponsored or purchased data). The sale/release of that information to others has to been done in fairness to the value that they have contributed. It is possible to get sub-segments of the full data set for far less than $20,000 (either by demographic group or subset of measurements). You and all your readers are welcome to visit [TC]2 at any time and see many of the technologies from the Cool Zone. We do have visits from both large and small companies, and we are actively engaged with all size companies (as members and in consulting arrangements). Finally, the graph you have published is a small piece of a white paper which we are freely distributing to share some of the value of SizeUSA to all industry. Anyone can get a full copy at no cost by sending an e-mail request to kmunro@tc2.com (Kim Munro – she presented this work in a seminar session at SPESA).
    Best Regards,
    David Bruner

  8. Kathleen says:

    Hi David, great that you stopped by. I guess I’ll have to cross TC2 off the list of people who ignore me, I hate it when that happens. I have to behave if people are watching :).

    The SizeUSA study was funded in part by taxpayer dollars but was also funded through the sponsorship of many private apparel companies…

    Yes, I understand and actually mentioned such in previous entries. However, said sponsorship from apparel companies is also, indirectly, subsidized by taxpayers as these contributions are tax deductible.

  9. Christian says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I’m interested in the sweater knitting machine that does the whole ball of wax without seaming. Or any other machines that produce from the body scan data. Can you give me any more information or direction please? Thank you!

  10. Hi Christian
    I reread that section and can see how I left you with the wrong impression so my apologies for that.

    When I said “whole ball of wax”, I meant making the sweater start to finish on the machine without seaming, piecing etc. Iow, just the production but not product development. I don’t know of any machine that one can download body scanning data to and have it produce a product. One certainly does send data to the machine but it must be refined and restricted to parameters that the machine needs to produce to spec -which is what we call product development.

  11. Christian says:

    Thanks for the reply. Ok, I figured there was a product development piece. I’m not trying to find a way around that. I’m just curious in this machine and if it more advanced than what I know of as a circular machine.

    Overall, I’m curious in what machinery is available other than the laser cutting of flat fabric (plus stitching) that could potentially but used to send “one-off” data to for custom production. Hope that makes sense. Thanks again.

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