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3rd August 2017, Beijing

Automated Sewbot to make 800,000 adidas T-shirts daily

Technology developed in the USA will be used by a Chinese company to supply European sports brand adidas with T-shirts made in the US by robots. This is a major breakthrough in the automation of garment assembly by the global partnership.

Leading sportswear brand adidas is planning to produce 800,000 T-shirts per day using fully automated Sewbot Workline’s supplied by SoftWear Automation, of Atlanta, GA. Tianyuan Garments Company, of Suzhou, China, the largest producer of apparel for adidas worldwide, has partnered with SoftWear Automation to produce the T-shirts at Tianyuan's newly acquired plant in Little Rock, AR, China Daily reports.

Using cameras to map the fabric and robots to steer it through the sewing needles, the system will handle soft fabrics and make the T-shirts for Adidas. © SoftWear Automation

Using cameras to map the fabric and robots to steer it through the sewing needles, the system will handle soft fabrics and make the T-shirts for adidas on the system which is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of next year.

"From fabric cutting and sewing to finished product, it takes roughly four minutes," said Tang Xinhong, chairman of Tianyuan Garments. "We will install 21 production lines. When fully operational, the system will make one T-shirt every 22 seconds. We will produce 800,000 T-shirts a day for Adidas."

This is a big achievement for Atlanta based brand SoftWear Automation, which launched in 2012. The company’s Sewbots use a combination of patented high-speed computer vision and lightweight robotics to steer fabric to and through the needle with greater speed and accuracy than a human. The technology was developed by and is patented by Georgia Tech's Advanced Technology Development Center.

Tang said that with complete automation, the personnel cost for each T-shirt is roughly 33 cents. "Around the world, even the cheapest labour market can't compete with us. I am really excited about this," he said.

Tianyuan announced last October that it would invest $20 million in the 100,000-square-foot defunct Little Rock plant it had acquired. In time, it will bring 400 new jobs to Arkansas. The signing ceremony was witnessed by a Chinese textile delegation led by Xu Yingxin, vice-president of the China National Textile and Apparel Council.

Xu said that establishing a clothing factory in Arkansas enables Tianyuan to satisfy instant order demands from its clients. He praised Tianyuan's working with American partners in automation as a smart move at a crucial junction in the technology revolution. "The idea of Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Manufacturing is gradually becoming the reality," Xu said. "It is revolutionizing labour-intensive clothing manufacturing."

The delegation, made up of industry leaders and entrepreneurs, also visited existing plants of Tianyuan and Shandong Ruyi Technology, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and Wal-Mart's global headquarters.

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Filling the automation gap in garment manufacturing

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