Automating the garment folding process

Conventionally, the major chunk of the global garment manufacturing industry never believed in automating processes such as garment folding until a couple of years ago. Hundreds of workers used to spend hundreds of hours to manually fold the garments of different types on a daily basis in a typical export-oriented factory and the situation is no better even today despite the fact that automation has paved the way for betterment of a factory’s shopfloor processes. In this digital world, there is an immense need to talk about technologies that can reduce human dependency at large thus saving enormous cost. Three of such automatic garment folding technologies are discussed here:

  • Thermotron’s Automatic Folding Machine Line – STP 1000

Thermotron, a Greece-based textile technology company established in 1977, has been offering automatic packing and folding machines for quite some time now along with other products which include heat presses for readymade clothes.

The company’s offering for automatic garment folding comes either as an autonomous unit or as part of a folding and bagging machines set and the machines are – STP 1000 (automatic folding machine), PV40 (automatic bagging machine) and KL60 (automatic sealing machine). The fully automatic line of machines needs only one operator and is capable of folding, bagging and sealing 5,500 garments in 8 hours shift.

“The variety of garments is huge, and for each garment, we have different reactions from the machine but I am proud of my engineers that they have been able to make a line of machines that can be used to fold all type of casual garments like T-shirts, Polo Shirts, Sweaters, Jeans Bottoms,” told George Paschalidis, Sales Manager, Thermotron to Apparel Resources.

STP 1000 Programmes:

  • Automatic 1 folding: With this programme, the machine automatically folds garments from the middle by measuring the length of the garment. The maximum length of the garment that can be folded by the machine is 100 cm.
  • Single folding to desired length: This programme folds clothes to the desired length (not necessarily from the middle) with 1 folding. The machine measures the length of the garment and attempts to reach the desired length the user selects in centimetres on the touch screen. The only limitation of this programme is that the desired end length of the folding cannot be smaller than one half of the length of the garment that’s placed in the machine.
  • Automatic double folding: This programme folds the garment to the desired length with 2 folding. The machine measures the length of the garment and attempts to reach the desired length the user selects in centimetres on the touch screen. The only limitation of this programme is that the desired end length of the folding cannot be shorter than ¼ of the length of the garment that’s placed in the machine.
  • Double folding to desired length: This is used to fold trousers to the desired length with one or two folding. However, the limitation of this programme is that the desired end length of the folding cannot be shorter than ¼ the length of the trousers.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk7heOZ1pTo

The machine has a dimension of about 286x125x140 cm with power capacity of 1.44 kW. The garments of maximum dimension (L/W) 100 cm/80 cm (Trousers L=120 cm) can be folded via the machine and the width of final folding is minimum 16 cm and maximum 30 cm.

As stated earlier, the STP 1000 can also be combined with the bagging machine PV40 and the sealing machine KL60 in order to create a complete line of production, thus giving a comparative advantage and coming on top in terms of speed and standardisation of the bagging and having as an ultimate advantage the reduction of labour cost.

Also Read: Increase ‘Cooling’ and ‘Lux Level’ in factories using new-gen equipment…

What’s next after folding process?

Thermotron also offers automatic stacking machine NT50 which is capable of stacking the already folded garments as they come from STP 1000. The maximum height of the stack can be 35 cm. FX23 is another model of the automatic folding machine which can fold garments such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, undershirts, etc. The machine has a dimension of 104x84x84 cm and power capacity is just 0.24 kW. FX 23 has a capacity of folding and packing 2,500 garments in 8 hours, while NT50 can stack 3,500 pieces per 8 hours.

“We are already present in over 32 countries worldwide and Thermotron has expanded its reach in the Asian market as we see a huge potential here and lately, we want to capitalise more on the vibrant opportunities that Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, offer,” said George.

Thermotron is represented by New Horizon Systems in India, while it is marketed and sold by Focus Garment Tech in Bangladesh which is a Singapore-based technology company.

  • Lingchuang Automated Folding Machine: A High-Tech and Reliable Chinese Technology Marketed by Magnum Resources (India)

Shenzhen Lingchuang Automated Technology Co. Ltd. is located in Shenzhen (China) and has been focusing on automatic garment folding and packing technology for more than a decade now. The company, with over 40 patents and a production capacity of more than 400 machines annually, is equipped with a state-of-the-art R&D centre where it invests in cutting edge innovation and customisation.

The series of packing machines use only one worker to manually feed the garments (knits and trousers) and the folding, packing and sealing is done automatically for an efficient packing process and gives desired productivity.

The average packing speed of the machine is 500-700 pieces per hour which is around 5,000 pieces per day. This increases packing efficiency and minimises manpower in manual folding and packing of garments. The company is exclusively represented in India through its partner, Magnum Resources Pvt. Ltd., a leading provider of technology and automation solutions to the apparel and textiles industries, which tied up with Lingchuang back in December 2019 two months after CISMA show took place in Shanghai.

“Then COVID-19 happened and business operations became stagnant. Now we are focusing on an extensive marketing to tap the opportunities in automatic garment folding segment. Since the company is supplying the machines to the vendors of Uniqlo and Adidas, I can say the technology and outcome is proven. The machine can do single folding, double folding, triple folding as well as bagging. After packing, polybags can be sealed and taped. Suitable for mass production, I see there should be a demand in the factories for this machine as labourers that went back to their native town during COVID-19 lockdown have not yet come back and the industry is in dire need to increase productivity now to compete with globally set standards,” commented Akshay Sharma, CEO, Magnum Resources (India). As these machines save minimum 5 workers involved in the folding and packing of garments, Akshay’s statement remains on-point.

The machine can pack various garments such as T-shirts (round neck and Polo), jackets, lowers, trousers, denim and sweaters, etc. As far as the operating process on the machine is concerned, it follows the steps given below:

  1. Set up the garment folded size on control panel
  2. Lay clothes at appointed area on machine
  3. Start machine, paperboard/asphalt paper, desiccant will be placed into garment automatically.
  4. Then machine folds the garment, makes polybag from membrane automatically, packs the garment into the bag and seals the bag finally all automatically.

According to the company, following are the optional functions that can be obtained through the machine:

  1. Automatic sealing by hot-melting (hot seal and hot cut or hot seal and cold cut)
  2. Automatic stripping sticky tape and seal (tape wider than 0.8 cm)
  3. Automatic sealing bag by adhesive tapes
  4. Front and reverse folding function (can solve the problem of collar orientation)
  5. Automatic placing of paperboard
  6. Automatic paper wrapping
  7. Automatic placing drying agent
  8. Automatic falling into box after packing
  9. Automatic making of flat opening bag (from the material of coil polybag)
  10. Automatic making of pillow polybag (from the material of coil polybag)
  11. Function that packs multiple pieces of garments into one bag

Being a homegrown technology, China of course remains the largest market for Lingchuang where it has done a number of installations. Apart from China, the company has successful implementations internationally in markets such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh and the Unites States. The company’s machines are approved by world-renowned brands such as Nike, Uniqlo, Adidas, Anta, H&M, Gap, Super Dry, etc.

  • Automatic Folding Machine by ROQ – ROQfold

Portugal-based ROQ offers the ROQfold automatic folding machine that’s said to fold any kind and shape of clothing such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, polos – short or long sleeves – trousers, skirts, dresses, etc.

The secret to this flexibility of folding different products are its 3 folding stations – sleeves, body and final fold. ROQfold has 2 configurations: 1) with 3 folding stations 2) without the sleeves folding station, making the machine to occupy less space on the factory premises. However, the company advises to use the second configuration to fold T-shirts only.

The machine uses just one operator to load the piece and then the machine itself carries the rest of the processes. The only two requirements for the smooth process are: the initial configuration of the lengths of the folds and the type of folds (depending on the dimensions and type of the pieces) after which the automated process takes place.

The processing speed of ROQfold is 700 pieces/hour, which can vary depending on the size and type of the garment that’s loaded in the machine. The speed of the machine is defined by the loader so that the work is properly done.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcSF1YhZdtY&feature=emb_logo

According to the makers of the machine, durability and less maintenance are the two most recognised features in this machine. “The project started in the ‘90s when ROQ sold several ROQfold machines and all of them are still working and requiring very low maintenance today. It is an older model with fewer features but it asserts the longevity of this new model for decades,” claimed ROQ.

ROQfold gets supports from bagging, packing and stacking equipment

The ROQfold is ready to be coupled with ROQ’s automatic packaging line: ROQbag or ROQpack. Furthermore, the ROQstack is a module that enhances the ROQ folding and packing line by stacking the folded garments. The ROQstack can be attached to the end of the ROQfold and remains controlled from the control panel of the ROQfold. This is where the user defines the number of pieces per stack and the maximum height of the stack. After a stack is complete, there are 2 options – either it goes into a conveyer belt and starts a new stack, or it goes into a packing solution and the ROQstack starts a new stack. If it goes into the conveyer belt, then the stacks need to be accommodated into the shipping boxes; in the other option, the packing solution will finish the task. Once the packaging line is complete, just one operator can run the line, form the finalised clothing piece until it is properly stacked.

ROQfold is represented in India by Spoorthi Technologies, while, in Bangladesh, SR Bangladesh Service Limited and RECKON Exim (BD) Limited deal with its machinery.

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