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Have you ever noticed nature’s secret is a spiral? Our universe is a spiral. Energy moves in spirals Even our DNA is a spiral. Spirals start out as large curves and become increasingly coiled as they move closer to the center. So, it seems fitting that we found our inspiration for an unspooling – or rather a de-spiraling device in nature.
Fabdesigns would like to introduce you to the Next Level In Textiles – The Meminger IRO MTD unspooling device, which is key in building smart textiles, wearable technology, and feeding metal, conductive fibers, wire, auxetics, smart alloys, and other special materials into flat knitting machines and other textile machinery.
Over the last couple decades, Fabdesigns has revolutionized many industries including footwear, sporting goods, automotive, aerospace, intimate garments, medical devices, and many more.
More importantly, with one running shoe upper, we changed the way the world perceives flat knitting. Flat Knitting is now seen as anything but flat. It is a solution; a dosing of materials where they are needed. But, for Fabdesigns, that was over 10 years ago.
Our world has changed. Manufacturing has changed. Consumers want more.
Today consumers are looking for multifunctional products, which are sustainable, socially equitable, and are built to last.
Using 2D and 3D knitting as additive manufacturing is one of the most mindful and responsible ways companies can create cutting edge products with nearly zero waste.
So, what happened when the materials we wanted to use at Fabdesigns posed a challenge by being wound onto thick cylinders and flanged spools?
We got to work.
We filled notebooks, boxes, and walls with development.
There were givens.
· Most textile equipment is used for traditional textile manufacturing applications, such as apparel, and utilizes traditional yarns such as cotton, wool, polyester, nylon, elastics, and other common materials.
· OEM textile equipment is generally engineered to support the apparel industry.
· For knitting technical textiles, as Fabdesigns has done for over 30 years, rarely does an off-the-shelf anything work, without modifications to feed systems or other modifications to achieve a unique and specialized product.
· Precisely controlled unspooling is critical when controlled amounts of material must be incorporated into a fabrication with tolerances of 5 millimeters or less, as in footwear, medical, and other exacting industries.
· The angles required of a stiff or conductive material to pass through a standard OEM stop motion increase drag, risk of conductive charge build up, and the risk that a material may build a shape memory from the passages.
· Certain materials such as carbon fiber break off many fibers, passing through these right and acute angles of standard OEM stop motions, side tensions, and positive feed devices.
· Abrasive materials such as ceramics, meta-aramids, and para-aramids for example, create excessive wear on many of the guides, tensioning devices, and the pot eye.
· Standard machine builder package holders or spindles hold the cylinder-shaped packages on their ends. Anything wound on a flanged spool does not clear the flange. A common observation, when common materials are fed to a machine, is the materials tend to over spin, spirals on itself, and it snags on anything around it, including other materials. This spiraling on itself, adds twist to the material. This twist builds up and creates a coiling in the fabric until an eventual hard spot, containing tremendous excess twist in one section, typically resulting in the material work-hardening, and breaking on itself.
There were common observations:
· When the machine stops, the material continues to spin and the slack shifts over itself, which can cause tangling when the feed starts again. Slick filaments, like those used in footwear manufacture, slide down the spools over other wrapped strands of material, which usually causes a snag on the spool and stops the deployment of a material.
· Wire, cords, and monofilaments tend to reshuffle on the spool as the machine pulls them into the knitting area. but is difficult, if not impossible to continue feeding without breakage. The material may break at the needle in the machine or at the spool. Conversely, strong materials like Kevlar, UHMWPE, wire, and carbon fiber can break machine parts, guides, and needles, and stop motions.
Fabdesigns designed and built a special technical textile rack (adopted by Stoll and sold upon request) to help this problem for large cylindrical cones. But even a slant does not help with flanged spools, metal, wire, and ceramics. The same packages, if mounted on a slanted or level horizontal spindle that is perpendicular to the machine as in circular stands or creels, pose the same torque problem. Slanting the perpendicular packages on spindles adds the tangling problem, with the materials sliding over themselves.
There were trials and tribulations
· Mounting the packages horizontal and parallel to the machine solves the torque problem, but this makes the packages difficult to start spinning during operation causing tight areas in the fabrication.
· Sudden stops cause tangling and slack areas in the knitting. This unacceptable inconsistency has no remedy of repair. The machine must be stopped, the end of the tangled mess on the cylinder package must be found and restrung throughout the machine, which is a frustrating process.
· The whole knitting process must be restarted again. The existing workpiece has to be discarded, no matter where it is currently in the knitting process. There can be minutes, hours, or in the case of some composite materials, days already invested into the knitting process, as well as expensive materials.
· This is particularly true of monofilaments, multi-filaments, carbon fiber constructions, fiber glass, filament wires, cables, fiber optics, silicon, rubber, elastics, chain, cord, cable, fiber reinforcement materials for composites, stiff materials, fishing line, shape memory alloys, and other slick or shiny materials.
· Shima has a floor mounted unit for delivering one special material on a spool to a side feeding machine. Stoll has a dancer system that can feed two special materials on spools into a machine, but two systems take up the entire top of the machine. There was no existing way to feed three or more spooled materials into a machine to create a circuit. Fabdesigns wanted to put as many materials carrying data, sound, energy, heat, strength, and other attributes into streamlined light weight fabrications for many industries.
Over the last several years, Fabdesigns invested significant time and resources to push the machinery to the next level, until it invented and built state of the art technology to feed these types of special materials into textile equipment. We then focused on what a future flat knitting factory needs to make everything from smart textiles, next generation footwear, sensor laden yoga wear, exoskeletons, space station composites, electric vehicle components, and so many other multi-functional products that today’s consumers around the world are demanding now.
Fabdesigns has patented this technology and commercialized it with German engineering experts Memminger-IRO, making this incredible new tool accessible to a new generation of designers and engineers. This unspooling device opens up a completely unique way of making fabrications in the modern factory that is not possible with standard off-the-shelf equipment or standard off-the-shelf thinking.
Why use the same off-the-shelf crayon box as everyone else has when there is so much more?
Fabdesigns would like to introduce you and your imagination to the Memminger IRO MTD unspooling device.
With our device, we can now interweave multiple wires, conductive fibers, fiberoptics, and other materials into the same panel, creating circuits. This was not so easily possible before.
This is not a light-weight gadget or a toy. Spools of 4 kg or 8.8 pounds and handles large diameter spools as tall as 20 centimeters -8 inches and 25 cm 10 inches wide. In knitting carbon fiber, wires and other metals wound on heavy spools this device is a must.
This unique, advanced and high tech MTD device paves the way for the ordinary machine to make extraordinary fabrics consistently and repeatedly in production.
Although this device also works with a variety of other textile equipment including embroidery machines, sock machines, circular seamless machines, warp knitting machinery, and many weaving looms, the Memminger IRO MTD was specifically invented with flat knitting in mind because of the most challenging situations for feeding these types of special materials into a knitting area that is completely unpredictable. Selected feeders may travel different distances on each traverse of the machine. Feeders may remain static for some periods of time in the knitting process, and they may start abruptly or come to sudden halts. This device controls both the package rotation without adding twist and also maintains consistent material tension, and recovery while monitoring speed of deployment of a wide range of materials.
Fabdesigns is always pushing the boundaries of machinery capabilities toward robotics with our design for manufacturing approach.
In creating this device, we knew it had to work with small bobbins, heavy spools and various material, from delicate filaments to flat carbon fiber.
To add fabrication challenges, this device had to be able to handle both multi-dimensional fabrications as well as flat fabrics with precision, accuracy, and speed – no tight rows as it got started and no loose rows as the knitting process stopped.
It sounded like a tall order, but we really wanted to do this, and we built it to really work with many types of fabrications that were already being made as well as many fabrics that were not previously possible. This device is next revolution in flat knitting.
The Memminger-IRO MTD device is designed to fit into the existing stop motion system of a standard off-the-shelf machine of just about any brand, and perhaps even older equipment that a factory might want to retrofit.
We engineered this device to operate on both top feeding and side feeding machines. This device works with Stoll ADF and Steiger Aires 3130 which are both top feeding machines, as well as side feeding Shima, Cixing, Longxing, and many side feeding machines that are over 20 years old. Obviously, new machinery works best, and factories need to be reasonable of what they may be asking of an older machine’s capabilities, which are entirely dependent on how the machine has been cared for over the years and what its original productivity is.
The greatest advantage of the MTD is that a plurality of devices may be mounted on one knitting machine, driving a plurality of strands of materials off a plurality of flanged spools in coordination with the movement of the knitting machine. Fabrics may be shaped into a two or three-dimensionally knitted products, components, or yardage. Check configurations with Memminger IRO.
Once Fabdesigns exhausted its challenges, we presented the unspooling device to the engineering team at Memminger IRO which spent over a year evaluating the MTD’s performance, testing in their facility in Germany and at our facility in Malibu, and then fine tuning the system testing at Stoll in Germany for a year 2020.
Questions are welcome at Fabdesigns Inc. in California, USA, or Memminger-IRO in Germany.
Connie Huffa – Fabdesigns, Inc.Copyright © 2021 Fabdesigns, Inc., All rights reserved. Newsletter for manufacturing technical textiles & 3D flat knitting Mailing address: 28714 Canwood Street, Suite 110, Agoura Hills, CA 91301 www.fabdesigns.com firstname.lastname@example.org