Innovation students from MDU are automating the textile industry

Article · 2022-06-22

For a period of one month, a group of students from Mälardalen University have been working on the Digital sömmerska (Digital tailor) project at the University of Borås. They have been tasked with robotising the human process of handling a fabric and sewing a simple garment.

Studenterna Yuliya Urban, Inés Acinas, Ana Margarita Podbervsek och Charles Auguste samt bild på roboten Yumi från ABB
Students Yuliya Urban, Charles Auguste, Inés Acinas and Ana Margarita Podbervsek and the collaborative robot Yumi from ABB.

Yuliya Urban, Inés Acinas, Ana Margarita Podbervsek and Charles Auguste are all studying the Master's Programme in Innovation and Design at Mälardalen University. Recently they have been on a course where they worked with real-life projects at external clients.

“Digitisation and automation are the future, as is the case in almost all industries. When it comes to costs and business benefits, it is important to implement automation if Sweden is to have a future in textile production,” says Yuliya Urban, who project manages the students’ tasks.

The goal of the students' work has been to teach a collaborative robot how to handle a piece of fabric – pick it up and hang it on a hanger, lift it down and place it in an automatic sewing machine. They began by investigating the existing process where a person did the work. They then transformed the components into a robotic process, where they developed their own grippers and worked to get the robot's movements to mimic that of a human.

“As fabric is a soft and billowing material, it is difficult for a robot to manage it. Therefore it was particularly exciting when we got it to work. Many people doubt that it is possible to automate the work of a tailor, but we have proven that parts of the process can be handled by a robot,” says Charles Auguste.

The aim of the project is to enable production in high-cost countries such as Sweden through automation and robotisation of the processes relating to clothing, furniture upholstery and technical textiles. We want to create an image of what is possible in the present situation and bring together relevant partners for further research and development. Digital sömmerska is part of the Mikrofabriker (Micro-factories) project which is run by Science Park Borås and Automation Region.

Automation Region has an established cooperation with Science Park Borås and that is why students from Mälardalen University were selected to receive the assignment.

“It's really fun to be able to engage students in the cooperation effort we have with Science Park Borås. It is an essential part of our joint efforts for a more sustainable textile industry, while at the same time it is valuable for students to work with practical components during their education,” says Catarina Berglund, Process Manager at Automation Region.

Read more about the Master’s programme in Innovation and Design at Mälardalen University → 
Read more about Science Park Borås (in Swedish) →