Fabric Spreading Process in Apparel
In this article, garment merchandising will discuss the fabric spreading process in the apparel industry. Spreading is a process in which a particular length of fabric is placed on the table; after that, the same lengths of the fabric are placed over the previous layer of fabric to cut the different parts of garments bulk. The layers forming in the result of fabric lengths spreading over each other are called plies. The length of the ply based on garment sizes, shapes and the number of garment parts which are required to be cut. The number of plies in a spread is determined by the number of orders, technology, and technical expertise of the spreading and cutting process.
Types of spreading:
- Manual Spreading Process
- Semi-Automated spreading Process
- Fully-Automated Spreading Process
Manual Spreading process:
The manual spreading process is an ancient and traditional way of spreading the fabric layer on the cutting table. The manual spreading process is very compatible for small scale production. All kinds of fabric can be cut by a manual spreading process. Either the fabric is complex in structure or complicated pattern. In large scale production houses, the use of manual cutting is normal for working with complex pattern fabric. The cost of technical equipment for automated cutting is high as compared to the manual cutting process. Productivity in the automated cutting process will also be high as compared to the manual cutting process.
In the manual spreading process, two men (worker) hold the fabric from its corner edges and move the fabric plies over the cutting table. These workers ensure the correct placement of each thickness during spreading.
While spreading, they also note the fault in fabric and decides whether to leave them or cut these faults out. During spreading, they also count the number of plies that are required for any garment style and cut the fabric at the end of the spread according to the length required. In the case of complex patterns, they confirm the pattern matches in all the fabric plies in the spread.
The quality and spreading speed is reliant on the possessions of the fabric, skill, and experience of the workers involved. Manual spreading requires no special equipment in its process. All types of fabric may be spread, but the manual process demands high skilled labor and takes time. The manual spreading process is used in small production houses as well as in large production, where there is a need to lay fabric with different types of complex patterns.
Characteristics of the manual spreading process:
The manual spreading process is done on a spreading table with a flat surface. The fabric feeder, on which the fabric roll is hanged, may be attached to the spreading table, on a wall, or maybe on a stand next to the spreading table. Usually, the lay end cutter that is used to cut the placed fabric plies is attached to the spreading table that is head-to-head with fabric feeder. The roll of the fabric is fixed on the feeder axis before the process of spreading starts. The fixation of fabric roll is according to the spreading mode that will be performed; it may be face side up or face side down. The sequential steps are involved in the manual spreading process. These steps are mentioned below
- Marking of the spread data
- Spreading the fabric plies
- Placing the marker on the top of the spread
At the start of the manual spreading process, an underlay paper ply is fixed on the spreading/cutting table to make sure the easy transmission of the fabric layers along the table while cutting process. The manual spreading process is performed by two workers at each side of the spreading table. These workers move the fabric ply to the start of a spread. The end of the fabric ply is fixed exactly at the start of the spread and secured. After that, the worker returns at the first position where the fabric roll is fixed or positioned. One worker aligns the previously placed fabric ply with the edge of the spreading table and the plies spread before with the tolerable variance of 0.5 plus or minus. The other worker flats the surface of fabric ply to make sure the tension is even in the fabric. The tension must be even to ensure to prevents the appearance of the wrinkles during fabric spreading. The spreading process continues until the required number of plies is laid down.
The ideal length of manual spread is five to eight meters. Shorter markers may be joined and placed as a one spread, making either a traditional or a step spread. How much the number of plies would be there in a spread is dependent on order size, properties of the fabric such as slickness, thickness, friction between the fabric and cutting devices, and the technical limitations in the manual cutting process . Interlinings and narrow cylindrical fabric are spread by one worker normally.
The fixation of a marker on the top of a spread:
After spreading the fabric, the printed paper marker is placed on the top of the ready spread. Immobilizers or clamps are placed around the sides of the spread to make it fix on its position. If the marker is printed with adhesive material on its reverse side, then it is lightly fixed to the top ply of the spread by using an iron having a special large base.
Disadvantages of the manual spreading process:
- The manual spreading process requires highly skilled workers to perform.
- It’s hard to get speed and quality work if the labor is not well trained.
- The workers involving in manual spreading process experiences a heavy load work during their shift time. Hence their personal fatigue may affect the speed and quality of the work.
- For manual spreading process two workers involved, but in the automated spreading process, just one worker is required.
- Small roll sizes.
- Probabilities of improper fabric lay alignment.
Advantages of the manual spreading process:
- Requires low investment
- Appropriate for small scale product houses.
Equipment required for manual spreading:
The equipment necessary for the manual spreading process is simple and reasonably less expensive. The central part of the equipment is a spreading table. Special lay end cutter may also be used to enhance the productivity of the process. Other equipment’s involving in the process are special large base iron, clamps, and pins, and fabric feeder stand.
Automated Spreading Process:
The manual spreading process requires highly skilled labor and time consuming for bulk production. When there are large size orders, then the speed, quality, and productivity of the process become the necessary elements to meet the customer need. Therefore high-speed auto spreaders are made that just not work speedily but give precision and high productivity also. First of all, the spreading machine carries the roll of fabric over the spreading table and mechanizes the spreading process.
In the new era of this world, new techniques and systems are developed. Since the technology of computer-aided design has been used to create and store pattern and their markers. The spreading process has become fully automated. The automatic spreading process meaningfully enhances the productivity of the speeding process but not changes its central work values.
Automatic spreading is done with a special spreading machine. This special machine unfolds a roll of fabric along with the spreading table, cuts and counts the plies, makes sure the plies aligned correctly, and completes the spread. There are two types of automatic spreading
- Semi-automated spreading
- Fully automated spreading
In this Semi-automatic spreading process one worker/operator is required. This worker moves with the spreading table during the spreading process. The movement of the worker may be with the spreader stand panel. The worker flats the surface of the fabric laid to identify the fabric faults and will rate these faults as minor or major. If the faults are minor, then the worker will leave these faults; if faults are major, then he/she will cut that part of the fabric from the spreading layer. The worker uses a manually operated speed control handle, which is required to change the spreading speed and to slow the speed in the problematical area. In short, this manual worked control handle helps him to increase or reduce spreader speed or to stop the spreader. In the automated spreading Process the height of the cutting machine is adjustable. This height can be adjusted manually or using a special control panel.
Advantages of Semi-automated spreading process:
- Speedy and less expensive.
- Proper alignment of selvage.
- Very easy to operate with an electronic clutch.
- Autoloading and unloading device.
- It has Auto catcher to hold the ply of the fabric.
- Auto fault detector.
Disadvantages of Semi-automated spreading process:
- Loading of the fabric roll.
- Cutting is still manual.
- Not appropriate for large scale production houses.
- Requires higher labor cost to operate.
- No sensors in spreading head.
- All types of fabric spreading cannot be done.
Fully automated spreading:
Fully automated spreading is done in huge scale production houses where the cost and maintenance of this fully automated spreader are justified due to the bulk of production. This fully automated spreading machine is used where high quality and quick work is required to meet customer satisfaction. In the fully automated spreading machine, the operators set all the parameters on a control panel such as length of the lay, spreading speed, the tension of the fabric lay. The spreading machine will automatically spread the lay of the guided length in control panel, will cut the ply at the end, counts the number of plies itself, and will stop after laying the required number of plies.
The speed of spreading depends on fabric properties. Fully automated spreading is almost three times faster than the manual spreading process.
Advantages of Fully Automated spreading:
- The operator sets all parameters on the control panel, and the spreading machine spreads the layers of fabric automatically by itself according to the sets benchmarks in the control pane.
- Precise in working and highly qualitative
- This automatic spreading machine can spread all types of fabric
- It is a high-speed spreading device and consumes less time.
- This machine is known as a labor cost reducer.
- This machine has automatic sensors that identify fault automatically.
- This machine can make any type of lay.
- Automatic tensioning device to control fabric layers tension to avoid the in-air trap in spreading.
- Automatic sensor elevator to adjust the layer height.
- It has a feature of automatic loading and unloading of fabric rolls.
Disadvantages of Fully Automated spreading:
- This technology of spreading is very high in cost and needs capital investment.
- A highly skilled operator is required to operate this machine.
- Large scale production houses can afford the expense.
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