ESI Robotics has just joined another project- Innovation Pact for the Digitalization of Textiles and Clothing, from which it will receive funding of 501.6 thousand euros for the development of two robotic cells aimed at automating processes in the textile sector.
The TEXTP@CT project has a total value of 46 million euros and its main objectives are to boost the digital maturity of the Portuguese Textile Cluster, focusing on the sector's challenges and opportunities, and to reduce the excessive dependence on this industry, particularly clothing, on human intervention. This project is even more relevant at a time when the sector is facing a shortage of skilled labor.
ESI Robotics is now preparing to develop two robotic cells for this project, one for the sewing process and the other for the fabric collection and cutting processes.
"The goal of this project is to develop flexible production cells that combine robots and human operators. This will reduce the workload of people operating in this sector. We therefore hope to see the emergence of a new generation of robotic employees who will contribute to the manufacture of clothing," says Gil Sousa, co-founder of ESI Robotics.
Automating the sewing processes
Of all the operations involved in clothing manufacture, sewing is the most labor-intensive, accounting for up to 40% of the total cost. In addition to this cost, the sector faces a fundamental problem of a shortage of qualified human resources, which tends to worsen given the lack of attractiveness of the job for younger generations. Thus, the need arises for alternative solutions for garment manufacturing.
In this context, ESI Robotics is responsible for studying and developing a robotic industrial sewing cell - capable of developing, for example, hems and side joints of parts - contributing to the automation of the sewing process.
Pick and Place – Automating processes for picking up parts after cutting
ESI Robotics will develop a robotic cell capable of extracting parts from cutting tables and positioning them so that they can be transferred to the next process. The automatic handling of fabrics is quite complex due to their physical characteristics. There is also a wide variety of references and materials, which makes the development of a universal system even more challenging. Cutting tables already exist on the market, but at the end of the process, it is usually the operators who remove and divide the pieces by type.
This project aims to automate this process by developing a system that allows the distinct parts to be handled, moving them in an orderly fashion to specific areas, which will then be handed over to the next processes.
This project will be implemented in partnership with the Technological Center for the Textile and Clothing Industries of Portugal (CITEVE) to test and demonstrate the potential of automation in the textile industry to other companies. Once the project is completed, the expectation is that industrial pilots will be created that will serve as a lighthouse for the textile sector, allowing it to adopt new digital solutions for design, production and interaction with the value chains and to improve the digital skills of its professionals.