Could 'sewbots' bring clothing manufacturing back to US?

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ATLANTA - Made in the USA: That's not a common claim these days, especially when it comes to clothing. 

Textile mills used to be as common in southeast as the cotton fields, but the U.S. garment industry is now a memory.

American closets are now full of clothes made in China, India, Bangladesh and other countries.  

More than 90 percent of garments in the U.S. are not made in America. 

Channel 2 Action News anchor Justin Farmer found a Georgia Tech spinoff that is trying to change that.

"It’s about 100 percent probability that it'll work," said Dickerson.

The “it” to which Dickerson refers is a sewing robot. 

Today on Channel 2 Action News at 6, Farmer takes a look at the emerging technology and finds out how it could bring highly skilled jobs to the U.S.

Dickerson and his team of engineers plan to test the sewing robot at the American Apparel Factory in Selma, Alabama; one of the few places in the U.S. that still makes clothing. 

All of the company’s contracts are with the military, which requires its uniforms to be made here.

Roy Ezell runs the plant. He told Farmer he is in favor of a robot that sews.

"I would welcome it with open arms,” Ezell said.

People have tried this before. And there's been some success, but only to a point. The Selma plant has examples of past attempts to automate the entire sewing process. 
 
And while they don’t work on their own, they do help workers be more efficient.
 
"Quite frankly, that's the way that we have been able to keep what is still left of apparel manufacturing in the United States today," said Ezell.
 
Since the last attempt to automate sewing, technology has advanced. Prices have not.
 
“The cost of computing has just gone through the floor,” said Dickerson.
 
If this project works, there won't be a need for as many commercial seamstresses. But Dickerson said there would be new, higher paying jobs in maintenance, computer programming and logistics
 
If the sew-bot becomes reality, the military would be the first customer. The pentagon pumped more than $1,000,000 into the project to get it started.
 
Step two, according to Dickerson, is going into commercial business and getting back some of the manufacturing the U.S. has lost since the mid-90s.


Channel 2 Action News

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