A new robot that can sew clothing is sparking concern about the future for the human role in clothes manufacturing. The robot, called Sewbo, can sew an entire shirt without any human intervention. Some see solutions like Sewbo as being a potential solution for reducing sweatshop labor concerns.
The robot was designed by combining an automatic sewing machine with a robotic arm. To make a shirt, prepared materials are run through the robot’s preprogrammed tasks and a shirt is created. While the robot can sew a garment, it’s not likely that humans will be replaced completely by their machine counterparts. The sewing robot is not able to fully fold fabrics. This is a skill that is not easy for a robot to replicate. The Sewbo’s creators have tried to sidestep this problem by adding a stiffening agent to the fabric, making it easier for the robot to fold. The finished product is washed in warm water to turn it soft after the process is completed.
The automation of clothing manufacturing can affect the economies of developing countries. While sweatshop workers tend to earn low wages, the jobs still are very important to help support communities. Without the overhead cost of human labor, robots become a realistic and strategic solution.
Written by IEEE on February 22, 2017