For most of its existence, the art of making clothes has been one of those industries that cannot truly be fully automated. People can make automatic looms. They can build machines that harvest the raw materials, like little puffs of cotton. They can make industrial vats that mix dyes into the fibers evenly. However, up until recently, the textile industry lacked a machine that could truly replace a human being at some key functions.
Automated knitting machines made by companies like Sintelli changed the game, to some extent. Rather than mechanical tools augmenting the knitting work of a human being, that part of the process could be fully automated. Combined with the notion of single-weave production, as developed in Japan, and knitting has become a new front for the textile industry.
What Knitting Machines Are Used For
When manufacturing apparel, knitted garments are among the most popular and most demanded. They’re comfortable, they have great stretch, and their production demands are much lower than woven fabrics. There’s less preparation time, less processing, and more articles produced per production cycle.
Knitted fabrics are put to use in a number of things. T-shirts, evening wear, sweaters, socks, and even sportswear are produced using knitting machines. These pieces of industrial equipment have done wonders for speeding up the manufacturing process.
Simple Parts of a Complex Machine
However, knitting only seems simple to a human because evolution has given us very complex hands. The dexterity and flexibility of human hands are hard for machinery to replicate. As such, the typical knitting machine has a few more parts than a typical hand, and there’s much more mechanical complexity. So let’s take a look at those parts.
The needles are the most basic part of the machine. They’re what are used to knit the fabric, and the gauge (the measurement between the needles) determines that the machine can handle. There are also a variety of needles, including bearded, latch, and compound.
Of these, latch needles are the most common, but there are others can be used. Needles are attached to a part known as the cylinder.
Every knitting machine has legs. These provide a stable base, as well as balance the body of the machine so it doesn’t fall or lose balance while in motion. This isn’t universal, however. Some machines are placed on the floor with a wide base, rather than legs, to provide stability.
The Cam Box
Cam boxes are parts meant to hold the cam down. These will be arranged and modified based on the overall design. This means that if your knitting machine’s pattern is changed, you need to alter the layout of the boxes as well.
Feeders are simple. They’re the part where the fabric is loaded, allowing it to be “fed” into the working parts of the machine. Most machines are designed such that the more feeders you have working, the higher the production rate, as there’s more raw material to knit.
The Take-up Roller
A related part would be the take-up roller. These are used to take up fabrics from the machine, while also maintaining the proper tension as it is being worked.
If working with yarn rather than thread, a similar part is a creel. These are used for placing yarn cones, allowing for the supply to be consistent. A yarn guide is also used, as a device meant to ensure that the proper tension is applied to the material. As the name implies, it’s also meant to guide it to the right place.
A yarn tensioner is used to help the needle grip the yarn. This secures things as the machine works.
Auto stoppers are parts meant to prevent faulty situations from becoming worse. Knitting machines are complicated pieces of engineering, and there’s a chance that any of those myriad moving parts might malfunction. Auto stoppers will halt production to prevent further problems. In more modern designs, they can even send signals over an internal network, to alert human overseers something has gone wrong.
Knitting machines also have various safety features built in. Most common will be regulators that ensure that any sensitive components aren’t damaged by sudden surges in power.
These are the most typical mechanical parts in the overall body. Newer designs, ones that are built to be ready to take advantage of the Internet of Things, have other components. Most of these include sensors and data ports, allowing them to be plugged into a network and terminals that can process the information being taken and transmitted.
There are also specialized parts that might be used for specific models of machine. For instance, there are minor parts that would be used in equipment that’s focused on the jersey knit that wouldn’t be present in other models built for other styles of knitting.
Knitting machines are complex things. They have a wide range of parts, some of which move and some provide structural functions. As the technology behind these move forward, you can bet that they are only going to improve in functionality.