Automation has been the holy grail of sustainable fashion. But unlike the manufacturing of mobile phones for example, the sewing of clothing has been tricky to automate because fabric is flexible and a robot’s clumsy claws aren’t agile for the precise task.
Sewbo is one of the first industrial robots who is able to sew a T-Shirt in under 30 seconds. The genius isn’t necessarily in the robotic engineering, but in the clever process of chemically stiffening the fabric temporarily so it can be sewn. The fabric is then washed and the chemical stiffener recycled.
What automated sewing promises is not only an end to the questionable labor practices abroad, but the ability for mass customization and made-to-order garments locally. This implies dramatically reducing the overproduction of garments that eventually end up in our landfills.
For wearable technology, this has a huge implication as the need for scale to make wearable technology more affordable is dramatically reduced. Niche manufacturing of products that serve specific needs for smaller populations become feasible and affordable. Customization of garments such as the ability to precisely map sensors woven into fabrics to an individual’s 3d body scan become possible.
Living in Los Angeles, the first question to come to mind is if we are substituting one unsustainable practice for another as the need to wash and dry every single garment takes up one of the most precious resources we have: water.