Apparel manufacturing robots: fantasy or reality?

Why this near future still seems so distant

in brief

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence show that the technologies that will radically transform our design of work continue to improve.

Technologies that will radically transform our conception of work are constantly being perfected, be it in the fields of robotics or AI. Whether considering the bento preparing robot from San Francisco firm Osaro, or the flying dragon recently unveiled by scientists from the University of Tokyo; we observe that dexterity and precision in the execution of complex tasks is evolving exponentially. So much so that one would almost doubt the superiority of the human hand on the machine.

For all that, far from ambiant dystopian fantasies (leaving our collective imagination consider a machine uplift more likely and palpable than reason), the limits that machines are currently facing remain huge: some still have a relatively reduced autonomy; when for others, programming prerequisites necessary for their smooth operation still require a very intense effort. Not to mention the current inability of the latter to adapt to the changes and diversions, however small they may be, which still represent unfamiliar events in their daily operation. Finally, the cost of human labor in some parts of the world is still lower than the investment needed to automate production chains, influencing the decision of the world’s largest textile manufacturer to postpone investments on an automated production line for the time being.

The revolution that will bring a fashion robot designer, or even an automated Couturier to life, still remains a distant event. It would require a coupling between robotics and Artificial Intelligence, which is still a challenge. Because the complexity of algorithmic design, the use of Machine Learning (which implies the design of a dedicated data strategy and the costly acquisition of advanced hardware) and the time required for the test process & learn to be fruitful is still substantial, even incalculable; forcing everyone to have a long-term vision and a massive investment volume.

While waiting for these machines to become fully capable of grasping, as to interact almost instinctively with the world around them, the rhetoric of the human hand will continue to prevail.

But for how long will it be that way? For now, we will be closely following the evolution of the promising partnership between giant Avery Dennison and well-known (and recognized) SoftWear Automation that is poised to set the stage for the industry to embark on this path. As a reminder, the American company has already equipped brands such as Adidas, allowing the three stripes’ brand to produce 800 t-shirts per day in a fully automated chain. The new Avery Dennison – SoftWear offering is designed to provide manufacturers with a leading-edge solution that will bring greater agility to industry players in apparel and textile design.

A new kind of offering, that will enable many brands to adapt more effectively to ever-changing consumer demand by adopting fully automated sewing machine chains (provided by SoftWear) as well as clothing digitization solutions, through the integration of RFID chips (a technology of which Avery Dennison has become one of the greatest specialists in recent years) with today’s multiple uses, from authentication to digitalization of fashion items.

This post was written in partnership with DEFI France, as part of its support to innovation and fashion companies.

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