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Robots Set Their Sights on New Job: Sewing Blue Jeans

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Employees at the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center in Detroit, MI, watch a robotic arm positioning pieces of stiffened fabric for a demonstration of automated sewing.

Credit: Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center/REUTERS

Siemens has been working with clothing companies like San Francisco startup Sewbo Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., and military uniform maker Bluewater Defense LLC on efforts to automate apparel manufacturing.

Despite improvements in robotic technology, researchers say it could take years before robots can handle fabric, which is floppy and comes in an assortment of textures and thicknesses.

Siemens, in partnership with the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, has focused on Sewbo's approach, which employs chemicals to stiffen fabric to make it easier for robots to handle; the stiffening agent is washed out of the finished garment.

The institute provided $1.5 million in grants to Levi's, Bluewater, and other companies to implement the technique.

From Reuters
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