Sewing may not be widely regarded as glamorous, but it is literally what holds the very fabric of society together. All of the clothing we wear can be found to contain neat stitching, but have you ever wondered how bulkier items like mattresses, cushions or upholstery are sewn together? The highly-sophisticated machines that make the intricate designs and quilted patterns on the surfaces of these items are very different from the simple sewing machines of yesteryear.
Although the textile industry still largely requires skilled human hands to guide and sew the material, automation is steadily increasing. Now, automated stitching, quilting, and embellishing for larger textiles is showcasing the possibilities for automation technology to the rest of the textile sector as a whole. Automation has a lot to offer the industry, including fast, high-volume production, excellent versatility, and superior repeatability.
Nestled beneath the mountains in the town of Arth, near Lucerne, Switzerland, the factory of ASCO Bettwaren AG is highly regarded for its CNC-controlled quilting machines and services the company provides to high-end decorators and manufacturers of furniture, mattress covers and bedding. Seeing themselves as creative craftsmen eager to take on projects that others think are impossible, the ASCO team has developed increasingly sophisticated hardware, software, intuitive programming and graphical user interfaces to retain their competitive edge.
This innovation is thanks in part to the close partnership Parker developed with ASCO over the past 30 years. Parker has helped the textile specialists to develop increasingly sophisticated product offerings and designs for a wide variety of quilts, bedspreads, curtains, mattress covers, upholstery, decorative pillows, and synthetic blankets.
“Our mutually beneficial partnership with Parker now extends to over 30 years, and the SNA quilting machines we currently use, including frame and QLA cross-cut machines, have proven to be solid, long-lasting and highly reliable,”
Daniel Staub, Managing Director at ASCO
ASCO relies on Parker’s Automated Sewing Systems (SNA) for a variety of different operations, including cutting, stitching, and quilting. The SNA machines offer a multitude of single-needle quilting options in a modular concept, meaning the customer can first select the best configuration for their requirements and later add to the system as needed.
The machines cut the materials to the exact size required and feed them into the sewing area, often layering together multiple layers of fabric and padding, ready to be stitched. The edges of the material are securely clamped and the needle moves continuously across the material via a moving bridge, making the desired geometric quilting patterns or bespoke designs on the textiles. All this is done by a single operator at the graphical user interface.
Behind all this technology are a number of modules and systems from Parker, including Compax3 digital servo controllers combined with SMH low inertia servo motors, HLE linear actuators, Moduflex valve islands, and the P31 global air preparation system. These essential pieces of advanced motion control technology help to control the smooth movement of material by providing pneumatic clamping on the in-feed system, automatic sensing, straightening and tensioning as well as automatic cutting and unloading operations.
The latest addition to the range of SNA machines at ASCO is the SNA 4200 – a frameless, continuous sewing system with a moving bridge, allowing ASCO to fully automate their quilting projects from reel to pallet. The only need for hands-on operation is ensuring the multiple material reels are ready for feeding into the machine. This makes it possible for one operator to run several machines at once, further reducing operating costs.
With a speed of up to 4,500 stitches per minute, the SNA can generate transport speeds of 23m/min during sewing (55m/min without sewing). The Windows-based software allows users to easily create or modify quilt patterns, even on the most challenging contour designs, meaning that innovative new designs can become the norm instead of the exception.
Article contributed by Philipp Jäger, systems sales manager, Electromechanical and Drives Division Europe, Parker Hannifin Corporation