Application of robotics in textile industry: A review of recent advances

Application of robotics in textile industry: A review of recent advances

Prof N Gokarneshan suggests, the sooner we can introduce robotics and automation in any textile and apparel industry, we can seek thousands of benefits.

In  the  world  market,  survival  in  the  competition  of  apparel industry depends on the advanced technology, automation  and  robotics,  which  are  used  from  the designing  to  production  process  and  product transportation of  the industry.  There is no doubt that automation can increase the production efficiency, reduce the number of faults and reduce the overall cost of production. The global demand for quality clothing, low production costs and competitive advantage can be achieved through automation adoption.  In many developing countries, budget constraints prevent garment manufacturers from adopting advanced technology.  But  in  order  for  the  apparel  industry  to survive in the  market, it  needs to  be able  to produce more flawless products in less time and at a lower cost.

      Application  of  robotics  and automation  in  the  textile industry had begun over two centuries ago when John Kay’s  invented  the  flying  shuttle.  The flying shuttle machine was not only enabled an increase in production but also brought down the number of people required to operate the weaving loom, from two to one. The geographical distribution in the textile industry has seen a dramatic shift in the past 50 years.  Textile manufacturers have moved a proportion of their textile production facilities from manual to automation. In the recent years, the application of robotics has increased, coupled with the rapidly rising wages in Asia, has seen some manufacturers made interested in the robotics production-based business model. Its clear that textile manufacturers are shifting priorities to automation to increase productivity and boost efficiency.

       To achieve this, textile industry needs to adopt robotics automation, manipulation systems need to some artificial intelligence (AI). Automation and robotics are two closely similar technologies. Basically, robotics is a form of industrial automation. This article will describe a wide  range of  automation  in  textile process  by  using robots  which  is  ultimately  increasing  the  both  basic requirement of  textile industry  both: productivity and efficiency.

Areas of robotics and automation in textile industry

       There are several areas of automation in the production of textile materials including the yarn and fabric manufacturing process. In this article I will try to focus on  the  application  of  robotic  and  automation  in  the textile  fabric  manufacturing  process  and garments production. These include Robotics in handling of bales in blow room, Robotics in carding, Robotics in the splicing  in  auto-coners, Robotics  in  cleaning  of  textile industry, Robotics in fabric handling, Fabric Inspection, CAD  &  CAM,  Fabric  Spreading  &  Cutting, Sewing, Pressing,  Material  Handling  &  Radio  Frequency Identification (RFID) in automation.

Robotics in handling of bales in blow room: Samples of the bales are sent to a grading laboratory for observation. After it has been received, verify the quality of the shipment immediately. Then passing, each bale is moved by the conveyor to a loading station. Where it will be picked by a robot and brought to storage.  All the bales in blow room will be stored randomly in racks and position of bale with relevance bale number, weight and fibre characteristics.  When bale is being selected for processing, it will be removed from the warehouse by a robot on a “first in, first out” basis.

Robotics in carding: Robot could be programmed to pick up cams from each card place them on to a truck and transport them to a production area for drawing frame for conventional operation. This  can provide excellent cross  blending  and  it will  be  an  easy  matter  for  an operator to clear the cans from the touch into a drawing frame.

Robotics in the splicing in Auto-Coners and other winders: Each time there will be an end break or bobbin change.  This joins the yarn ends with a splice that’s virtually similar to the yarn. The strength and elongation values of the spliced joint are nearly always comparable, which is quite 90 per cent, with those of the yarn itself. Latest automatic splicer arm is act sort of a robot. It offers even Robotics in Cleaning of Textile Industry:  Recently, application of robotics in cleaning of textile industry has been started with a mobile robot. A robot named MRP Nomad 200 can clean and polish of floor surfaces in textile industry.

Robotic autoconer

Robotics in fabric handling: Fabric handling tasks require various tools and sensors in textile industry. To accommodate these tasks, ATI Industrial Automation Gamma 30/1 00 FIT sensor is mounted at the robot arm. A tool changer is also mounted on the FT sensor.  The custom-built tool rack provides space for a standard pneumatic gripper and other special end effectors for fabric manipulation in the textile industry.

Robotics simulator in fabric handling: The robot simulator allows to running the robot control programs in simulation mode, without accessing hardware.  This is very effective for debugging robot programs without the risk of damaging the robot during fabric handling.  The  operator  can  easily  navigate  by using  the  mouse,  selecting  and  defining  custom viewpoints.

Robotics in airbag manufacturing: In  automotive industry,  realistic  manipulation  processes  involve interaction of  fabric parts  with other  objects such  as work  surfaces,  robot  manipulators,  and other  fabrics. That’s why; the ability to model contact had been implemented.

Robotics in laser cutting: Laser cutting is really helpful to  fabric  cutting.  Among  the  various  types  cutting technologies computer-controlled lasers cutting system are  suitable  for  multi-ply  cutting  of  heavy  textile materials. It has been most widely adopted to increase the mass production in textile industry.

Robotics in folding and packing: The products folding and packing can carry out by the robots. They can take the garment, fold it and then pack it properly. It can be automatic or semi-automatic system.

Robotics in nonwovens:

      The production of nonwoven and 3D structures for protective apparels by using

Robotics is under development by the researchers. Particularly, the combination of robotics and a small- scale melt blowing unit is additionally possible.

Garment automation in fabric inspection: Previously fabric inspections were performed in a manual process, so many times defects couldn’t be accurately identified. The use of automated equipment helps to enhance the efficiency of the fabric inspection process.  Fabric inspection has proven to be one of the most difficult of all textile processes to automate. Various technique like Statistical approach, Spectral Approach and Model- based Approach can be adopted for automatic fabric inspection. In all of these methods, the fabric image is manipulated by a software or modelling tool to extract information about the severity of the fabric defect. The identified defects are automatically identified on the fabric, if the amounts of defects in a fabric lot exceed a certain limit, they are rejected.

Auto CAD and CAM: In the past, the design of fabric was done manually. So that a lot of time would be spent and the design would be recorded on paper.  But  now garment  manufacturers  use  Computer  Aided  Design (CAD)  and  Computer  Aided  Manufacturing  (CAM)  to make  garments. CAD  is  used  to create  3D  designs  of clothing  using  computers,  then  CAD  sends  that information  to CAM.  CAM controls and manages the production process according to that information.

Application of CAD/CAM

Automation in fabric spreading: Many years ago, fabric spreading was done manually; workers spread the fabric by hand. It also required more than one worker to complete the work. Then came the semi- automatic  machine,  where  one  could  operate  the machine  and  get  the  job  done.  At present fabric spreading can be done with the help of fully automatic machines. In automatic fabric spreading, the work is done quickly by keeping the length- width as per the instructions given by the operator.  Automatically spliced and starts new fabric spreading where the last fabric roll has finished. Effective & high-quality sensor is used to identify the defects and the defective fabric is cut by itself. Counting the ply number and the machine shuts down automatically when the specified ply number is exhausted. Any type of fabric can be spread by this machine. Less time required and less labour cost. However, it is very expensive and skilled operator is needed to operate this machine.

Automated fabric spreading

Automation in fabric cutting: This process was also done manually earlier but now automatic fabric cutting machine is being used. As a result, it is possible to cut the fabric more accurately and smoothly than before. According to the design of the garment now the design of  that  pattern  is  saved  directly  in  the  computer memory without making marker paper and according to that instruction the cutting machine automatically cuts multiple layers of  fabric together, in a  short time and accurately. This cutting process is also done somewhere using laser. The use of automatic cutting machines has reduced both the number  of  workers  and  the  time compared to manually or operator operated machines.

Automated fabric cutting

Automation in sewing : In  countries  like  Vietnam, Vietnam,  Cambodia  and  Laos  most  of  the  garment manufacturing process especially the sewing process is still done by skilled workers.

 Manufacturers  have  not made  significant progress  in purchasing  automatic  sewing  machines  or  Sewing Robot, this has  helped keep their  investment low. But manufacturers  who  have  not  invested  in  modern equipment  are  facing  extreme  competition  to  keep labour  costs low.  Recently for the automation of the sewing process, industrial robots are being built that can handle fabric during sewing activities, where no labour will be required. The process of forming seam in these automatic machines is similar to that of traditional sewing machines. Different types of sewing stitches such as overlock stitch, double chain stitch, double lock stitch etc. can be formed by robotic sewing machine.

Computerised sewing

Sewing robot (Sewbo): The Sewbo is an industrial robot used in apparel industry for fabric gripping and handling. There have been some experimental trials to sew the whole garment using robots.  One  such  example  is Zornow‟s  robot  “Sewbo”  which  can  automatically handle  fabric  elements  during  sewing.  The robot “Sewbo” invented by Zornow in 2015 can sew a T-shirt from start to finish.  This success was a milestone in achieving 100 per cent automation to create a complete outfit.

The robot can be programmed for a specific size and style. If the size or style of clothing changes, the robot needs to be re-programmed LOWRY SewBot: LOWRY SewBot is invented by Atlanta based company  of USA “Softwear Automation”,  it’s a special  type of  robot that  is  designed for  the  apparel industry. These  SewBots are  built using  the advanced industrial 4.0  revolution technology such  as computer vision  or  advanced  robotics,  which  can  analyse  and manipulate the fabric like human. SewBots can perform multiple garments manufacturing tasks such as, Fabric Cutting, sewing, Awaking, labelling, Inspection etc. all of these works is controlled with just one touch panel.  Dimensions in sewing as it can create high quality garments.  Philipp  Moll  GmbH  &  Co. invented a  3D Sewing  Technology, which  could  automatically  create 3D Seam.  Also, a 3D sewing robotic arm  developed in China, the robotic arm can quickly scan the fabric pieces with a laser scanner and sew them together supported programmed patterns  and cut  the threads, the  whole process takes just  a few  minutes to  complete. The 3D robotic arms are currently applied to the stitching of automotive interiors.  3D sewing technology can make clothing (trousers, jackets, shirts) and car seat covers, airbag fabrics.  This  3D  technology  can  help  achieve better  quality  of  high-efficiency  sewing  products.  3D sewing technology also helps reduce labour  costs  and increase productivity.


Automation in pressing: Pressing  is  one  of  the important  steps  to  enhance  the  aesthetics  of  the product  before  going  to  the  customers.  Pressing operation is done to remove any crease in the garment so that it looks attractive when the customer buys it. Finding  and  retaining  skilled  workers  for  pressing operations  is  always  a  challenging  affair.  Operators migrate to other sectors for higher salaries when they gain sufficient skills. As a result, there is a shortage of skilled workers in this sector.  These problems can be solved by adopting automation strategies in the pressing sector. Several advanced technologies such as pressing robots, jacket finishers, shirt finishers and shirt pressers are being commercially available now.

Full automatic ironing machine


Today, robotics and automation are widely being used in textile industry.  Substantial robotics developments are already being made in textile sector.  But mass production is not operated in textile manufacturing industries.  Studies on robotics and automation for textile manufacturing applications tend to be less. As a result, applications of robots in textile industry have not varied  much  from  conventional  handling,  assembly, welding, cutting, and so on the process. Therefore, our textile industrialist has to invest and take some necessary step to more and more research in the application of robotics in the textile industry.

As discussed above, we now realise that robotics and automation in the textile and apparel industry is indispensable for increasing productivity and prosperity. The sooner we can introduce robotics and automation in any textile and apparel industry,  we  can  seek thousands  of benefits.  So,  there  is  no comparison  to robotics  and  automation  in  the  textile  and  apparel industry to survive in this current competitive market


1. Application  of  Robotics  in  Textiles  By:  Prof. Tanveer Malik & Prof. Shivendra Parmar, Faculty, Dept.  of  Textile  Technology,  Shri  Vaishnav Institute of Science and Technology

2. M. Acar,  1995: “Intelligent  textile machines  and systems”,  M.Acar,  ed. Mechatronics  Design in Textile  Engineering‟,Kluver  Acad. Press,  pp.  61- 66.

3. N.  A.  Hunter,  R.  E.  King,  H.  L.  W.  Nuttle,  J.  R Wilson,  1993:  “North  Carolina  apparel  pipeline modelling  project”,  Intl.  J.  of Clothing Science and Technology, 5, pp. 19- 24.

4. D.H.  Kincade,  1995:  “Quick  response management  system  for  the  apparel  industry:

definition  through  technologies”,  Clothing  and Textiles Research J., 13 (4), pp. 245-251, UK.

5. U.  Meyer,  1994:”  Automation  and  control  in textile production”, Globalisation: Technological Economic  and Environmental Imperatives – 75th World conference of Tex

6. A.  Seyam,  F.  Sun,  1994:  “Manufacturing technology  for  apparel  automation:  lay-up

module, part  II”, Intl.  J. of Clothing Science  and Technology, 6 (1), pp. 5-3, MCB University Press.

7. R.C. Michelini, G.M.  Acaccia,  M. Callegari, R.M.Molfino, R.P.Razzoli, 1997: “Shop controller-and- manager  for  intelligent  manufacturing”,  S. Tzafestas,  Editor:  Management  and  Control  of Manufacturing Systems, Springer Verlag, London, pp. 219- 254.

8. C. Antonelli, 2008: “The economics of innovation critical  concepts  in  economics”,  Rutledge,  New York.

9. G.L. Kovàcs, P. Bertòk,  G. Heidegger, Eds., 2002 “Digital  enterprise  challenge lifecycle  approach to  management and  production”,  Kluwer  Acad. Pub., Boston.

10. J.X.  Liu.,  Ed.,  2005:  “New  developments  in robotics research”, Nova Sci. Pub., New York.

About the author: Dr N Gokarneshan is a Professor and Head Department of Textile Chemistry, SSM College of Engineering, Komarapalayam, Namakkal District, Tamil  Nadu.

Share This