The Robotics Living Lab (RoLL), which aims to help support micro-scale fashion businesses using robotic technologies for more sustainable production, is being developed at Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Fashion researchers, designers and manufacturers will be able to use RoLL to collaborate and make use of robotic technologies with a focus on creating high-value, low-volume fashion production in the UK.

RoLL will conceive, test, and develop new tooling solutions – creating new stitching, cutting, pressing and repair tools – to support small fashion design businesses in using innovative manufacturing processes for more sustainable production.

The facility will also encourage new forms of research partnerships, enable fashion research to inform policy on carbon-neutral manufacturing, and support Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s 2038 target for net zero manufacturing.

The funding was announced by Science and Technology Secretary Chloe Smith as part of a £103m investment into digital research and infrastructure.

Major renovations by Manchester Fashion Institute will see two office spaces repurposed and equipped for the Robotics Living Lab, which will be comprised of a robotics lab and a work-in-progress (WIP) space, due to be completed by summer 2024.

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Susan Postlethwaite, Professor of Fashion at Manchester Fashion Institute and Director of RoLL said: “The lab will enable fashion designers and manufacturers to work together using cutting-edge technology. This will impact hugely on micro and SME businesses and together we will be able to impact positively on the industry.”

The lab will be equipped with ‘cobots’ – collaborative robots designed to work alongside humans, with new end effector tools – devices used by cobots to perform a task.

These tools will be designed in collaboration with fellows of a co-design residency programme to develop interchangeable stitching, cutting, pressing and repair tools.

The development of design software for pattern cutting and garment construction sequencing will also allow for digitally enhanced design and manufacturing to take place.

Situated in a visible and prominent space within the Fashion Institute, RoLL and the research it will undertake, will be accessible to fashion students and researchers at the University alongside small businesses.

RoLL aims to challenge the way fashion is traditionally made and lead the way in helping to transform a sustainable future for the fashion manufacturing industry.