Automatic body-contour scanning has been in the news occasionally in the last few years, in the context of the textile industry re-measuring the population.
The obvious extension of this principle would be for a person to step into a measuring booth in a shop, have his/her body scanned, and a robot cutting the cloth (I presume sewing would still get done by a human at a sewing machine, as this is a much harder job to program a robot to do).
So, why hasn’t this taken off? Were there projects for doing this that failed technologically or commercially?
It’s difficult to see a commerically viable scenario for this. Small tailor shops (which are basically the only places in the U.S. where a man can get a custom-made suit) couldn’t afford the initial expense. Large clothing manufacturers long ago gave up made-to-order clothing.
Perhaps the Hong Kong-type clothiers could take advantage of the technology, but as the OP notes, the largest part of the labor cost is in the sewing, so I don’t know the advantage of a machine fitting.
Clothing is a very price-sensitive issue and labor is one of the biggest factors. It’s one reason why so few clothes are still made in the US. Most “custom tailoring” involves adjusting waistbands and cuffs, not making a whole garment. I don’t know the exact amount of price increase, but I’d be very surprised if enough people were willing to pay it.
Presumably, this human at a sewing machine would be an American, located in the same mall as the store with the scanning machine.
And this human would want to get paid just a little bit more than the humans in India, China, Vietman-- more recently, Laos (where the Chinese are outsourcing their labor because local Chinese workers demand such high salaries.).
We’ll have it fairly soon - within the next five to ten years. Get scanned at a shop in the mall, select the style and fit, then the clothing will get manufactured elsewhere and shipped to you. It will start on the high end and eventually get cheaper. It’s inevitable.
I don’t think we’ll see the manufacturing at the shop. People are used to waiting for custom clothing and they’ve become used to waiting for clothing ordered from web sites. I doubt they’ll expect instant gratification except at the very top of the market. Instead, the clothes will be made in large, completely computerized factories. It’s so much more efficient to do it that way.
While I’m sure that computers are up to the task, it sounds like it would be a mechanical nightmare, to me. When weaving, you need to keep the warp taut, and I can’t picture how you could do that while still generating curved surfaces, nor how one would make and handle the shuttles. Even if it could be done, I’d expect it to be much more expensive than weaving flat cloth, cutting it into shapes, and sewing it back together, like we do now.
Yes, but you’re imagining weaving cloth as we do now. It’s possible that the technology will be completely different. For example, you might use some sort of 3D printing technology. Edited to add, I can even imagine some sort of technology that will create the clothes directly on the person.
Because nano-assembly is really, really slow, and most people want their clothes sooner than a few months.
Dewey, what I could fairly easily picture would be some sort of synthetic material which stretches or contracts under certain conditions, like exposure to some wavelength of light or heat, to customize a fit. But for anything one could accurately describe as “weaving”, no. Perhaps I’m using the term “weaving” more precisely than you are: Not all methods of converting fibers to cloth are weaving.
OK, instead of “weaving”, let’s assume that the clothing has to be fabricated somehow. In that case, I’m imagining it can be fabricated in one piece. And it may not even be necessary to start with fibers.
The fashion industry is not technological and buyers probably arent interested in just in time manufacturing. High fashion buyers dont want this and el cheapo clothe buyers cant afford it. According to my gf, high fashion doesnt want to sell in everyone sizes. Just the sizes that look cute for the style. Being and maintaining a certain size is part of the game.
Youre also proposing turning simple retail clothing stores into JIT manufacturing centers. Theyre not geared for an equipment room and dont want to hire a sysadmin/maintainer. Their margins arent so hot to begin with. Oh, there’s zoning and insurance to consider if youre putting this machinery up anywhere outside an industrial zone.
Lastly, we dont need lasers to measure people. People come in pretty easy to measure increments. Two minutes with a tape measure is all it takes.