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SJ REPORT: New Textile Technologies Stand to Transform Modern Manufacturing

Textile manufacturing–from spinning to fabric formation to dyeing and finishing–has changed little since the industrial revolution. While computers and robotics have made the process faster and less labor-intensive, 21st-century raw materials still undergo a complex series of processes, using vast amounts of resources like water, energy and chemicals, as they are turned into fabrics for apparel or other end uses.

But things are about to change. Paul Brody, global business services vice-president and global electronics industry leader at IBM, believes we should prepare for “the disruptive transformation of design and manufacturing” across the board, led by technologies like 3D printing, intelligent robotics, and open source design.

“Where these new technologies do have a role to play, the disruption they are likely to cause is substantial. They suggest that the era of offshoring and outsourcing is coming to an end, as is the global search for low-cost assembly,” Brody wrote in an executive report for the IBM Institute for Business Value.

Industries requiring large amounts of labor for low-cost assembly are ripe for such transformation, said Brody, speaking at the Smart Fabrics and Wearable Technology Conference in April, 2014. The textile and apparel industry is no exception, with a number of recently-introduced technologies poised to turn our current system of sourcing and manufacturing on its head.

Click here to download the report.