Vi.be.Mac 2261H reverse arm felling unit.

From automatic pockets to flexible buttonholes, this feature takes a look at what's new from the sewing machinery suppliers. Today's developments are driven by needs for more flexibility and versatility across operations such as sleeve setting, pocket welting, lap seaming, waistbands and buttonholes.

Developments in sewing machinery tend to evolve over time, rather than showing huge leaps in innovation. The current trend is for more flexible and versatile machinery in each class, although specialist machines for complex and time-consuming operations are also being developed to address manufacturers' needs.

Sleeve setting
Sleeve setting ranks among the most difficult operations in the production of men's or ladies' jackets. Pfaff recently developed the 3834-4/11 integrated 4000 rpm lockstitch sewing unit for programmed fullness control. Its new wheel feed system accurately controls feeding lengths. Fullness and grading values can be pre-set across all sizes in a style, and stitch length can be adjusted in 0.1 mm steps. Thread tension is automatically regulated depending on the thickness of the material being sewn.

Durkopp Adler's new computerised sleeve setting workstations - the 550-16-23 or 550-16-26 - feature precise material feed. Stepping motors ensure that every sleeve is precisely set, and programmes can be transferred between workplaces without reprogramming and without loss of quality.

Lap seaming
Vi.be.Mac has also expanded its range of specialist jeans machines. The 2261 H reverse-arm three-needle chainstitch unit for lap felling and double-lap seaming on jeans, casual trousers, work clothes and denim jackets is fitted with a patented, auxiliary belt puller for uniform feed. Its low inertia foot pressure control also produces a constant stitch length. Maximum sewing speed is said to be 5000-5200 rpm.

Flexible machinery specialist Rimoldi has brought out a lightweight version of its jeans seaming machine, the Libra 84T-00-2CA-01. The company claims this feed-off-the-arm machine for double lapped assembly seams on shirts is the only sewing head of its type fitted with top feed. The traditional puller feed mechanism has been replaced by a top feed in front of the needles which helps ensure that the plies are correctly matched. It also guarantees a consistent stitch length along the seam and eliminates the need for the operator to pull or release the plies manually.

The latest technology from Pegasus includes the M700 Series overedgers and interlock machines for decorative stitching. The FV205-102AAx364/KH/RP/PL/PD/Y1471 is a three-needle, feed-off-the-arm, double chainstitch machine for lap seaming on jeans and work clothes. The left and right differential feed mechanism and the rear puller feed the fabric efficiently, reducing ply-shift on heavyweight fabrics or long seams.

Waistbands
The Pegasus TM625B-02/RP/Y7040 is a two-needle, needle feed, double chainstitch machine, with rear puller for attaching waistbands to heavy-duty clothing. Its needle feed mechanism helps eliminate ply-shifting. The W664-01ACx464/UT/Y, on the other hand, is a 4-needle, multi-use, cylinder bed, interlock stitch machine with top cover thread for plain seaming, covering and hemming on lightweight fabrics.

The clamp on Jet Sew's automatic pocket setter holds the pocket in position while it is attached to the garment.

Pockets
One of the latest products from AMF Reece is the Lockwelt 3000, a variable length pocket welting machine with an output of 2,000-2,200 pockets per eight-hours. The programmable control stores up to 99 different pocket styles, and displays the pocket type, welt length, corner knife positions, sewing functions and accessories selected for use with the chosen programme.

Up to six different pockets can be sewn in any one sequence. There are two models: standard for straight pocket welts, and the AP version which will sew both straight and angled pockets. An optional zipper attachment allows a plastic zip to be inserted automatically into the welt during the sewing cycle.

Jet Sew recently released a series of three automated pocket setters for attaching patch pockets onto shirts and pants. The operator positions the flat panel or tubular knit body onto the table and material clamps hold it in position. A hemmed pocket is then positioned on the internal blade around which the pocket will be formed. A transfer arm and stitching clamp travel to the folding area, and retrieve the folded pocket and panel for sewing. Once in position, the sewing cycle begins and the finished goods are stacked ready for the next operation.

Buttonhole and bar tack
In a conventional lockstitch buttonhole machine, stitching shapes are controlled with the main cam. Juki's LBH-1700 lockstitch buttonholing machine, however, hands this over to mechatronics. The machine comes with six different stitching shapes, and various settings for sewing specifications and operation mode.

A soft-start capability prevents problems at the start of the cycle by allowing the operator to establish the sewing speed and number of stitches. The new basting mechanism is effective on stretch fabrics, while end fastening stitches prevent the seam from unravelling.

New from Brother is the redesigned KE-430B electronic lockstitch bartacker with side mounted compact induction motor. The KE-430B also features low noise and low vibration, as well as new clutchless and camless features which enable it to run smoothly and quietly. Stitch length can be pre-programmed to within of 0.1mm to improve sewing accuracy.

New Siruba profile stitcher

Less traditional suppliers
China continues to make a wide range of sewing equipment which is steadily becoming more diverse and interesting. The China Feiyue Sewing Machinery Corporation, for example, produces one million machines a year, of which 80 per cent are exported, mainly to Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Ukraine, the Americas (20 per cent of total output value is sold in Mexico, USA and Canada), Asia and South Africa. Machines are badged as 'Yamata' in the western world, and should not be confused with Yamato - even though there are many similarities.

Korean machines are becoming more versatile too. Sunstar, for example, has introduced direct drive electronically controlled button sewing (SPS/B-B1202), button holing (SPS/B-BH3000) and bar tacking (SPS/B-B1201) to its range, and Siruba has a new 130 x 60mm profile stitcher (PK566).

Singer is back, albeit totally restructured. Its Japanese production unit has been closed, the corporate headquarters relocated to New York, and central sourcing is carried out from Asia. The company no longer produces any machines of its own, instead sourcing from Japan, China and Taiwan and badging the resulting units as Singer.

Niki Tait, C.Text FTI, FCFI heads Apparel Solutions, which provides independent assistance to the apparel industry in the areas of manufacturing methods, industrial engineering, information technology and quick response.