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Robots help Stretchline in world domination

Robots are playing their part in making Stretchline Holdings world leaders in the development and manufacture of textile elastics.

10th October 2014

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Long Eaton

Clothing/​Footwear, Industrial, Medical/Hygiene

Robots are playing their part in making Stretchline Holdings world leaders in the development and manufacture of textile elastics.  The innovative use and application of silicone material, for compression or grip, to textiles for fashion, medical, sports wear and every day garments has been made cost effective by the flexibility and control offered by industrial robots.

Working closely with Kawasaki Robotics UK, Stretchline Holdings Coating and Bonding Division, based in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, has taken the programme from development through to manufacture and is now delivering robot systems for use in its facilities.

The latest system to be completed uses a Kawasaki RS-10N robot and will be delivered to Stretchline's facility in Mexico.

Development

Miles Cain, Technical Director, Stretchline Holdings, has lead the development programme which has seen the application of silicone to products including hold-up stockings, socks, tights, bra bands and medical compression supports.

“There is a large market for self -supporting textile products and we originally started looking at reducing the significant cost on cost process to manufacture hold up stockings,” he explained.

“Conventionally there are several processes including making an elasticated band, dyeing it and sewing it to the stocking - this adds significant cost to a product.  Our solution is to accurately apply silicone to a band knitted as an integral part of the stocking removing considerable on cost.  After considerable research and development time perfecting materials we found that if the flow of silicone was very carefully controlled with precise measure and fast curing it would become an integral part of the material.”

Accurate programming

Kawasaki worked closely with Stretchline providing a robot for initial proving trials and development and setting up basic programme tasks. “The robot is easily justified on this application to ensure the precise control when integrated with the silicone delivery head.  We proved very early on, before we took delivery of a robot, that if we held a rotating former under a precise delivery head for the silicone we could achieve our objective finish consistently,” said Miles.

“What the robot allows us to do is to accurately programme rotation speeds and positions for applying silicone on a garment which we place onto a former on the robot's wrist.”

In addition to its development robot cell, Stretchline operates a compact automated cell, using two Kawasaki FS-06N robots, on its Long Eaton production line. Products are manually placed over robot mounted formers which accurately control the positioning and silicone application prior to a short curing cycle. 

Stretchline Holdings

Investing strongly in its brands, Stretchline is working closely with the universities of Leeds, Loughborough and Nottingham, researching innovative techniques with materials and manufacturing techniques. 

“We are a growing business, with a current turnover of $125 million, and a major supplier to the world's leading garment suppliers,” commented Stretchline Managing Director, Norman Collyer.  

“Having factories in the correct geographical locations is core to our business; operating now in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Indonesia, China, Honduras, USA, and the UK enables us to be close to our customers and reduces transportation costs.  The flexibility and repeatability of the robot systems means that procsses can be competitively replicated anywhere in the world and operated with minimal skill levels.”

www.kawasakirobot.co.uk

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