Exhibitors at the Bobbin Show International [http://www.bobbin.com] introduced a commendable array of technological advances to give apparel manufacturers the equipment they want to compete on cost and quality, while at the same time, making the workplace safer.

This year’s show, held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta from Oct. 1-4, was appropriately nicknamed “A Common Thread,” pointing to the thrust by major exhibitors on information technology and systems integration. Thomas Baur, president of ASSYST INC. [http://www.assyst-intl.com], said of the show, “Integration is the magic thing here. Communication is very important.” He added that major companies like Guess?, The Gap and Levi Strauss were looking for beginning-to-end solutions for their design and manufacturing facilities.

The North American Free Trade Agreement proved that it has had a profound effect on the U.S. cut-and-sew industry. Three major sewing machine exhibitors skipped the show this year, and a fourth, Singer Co., took a much smaller booth that featured no sewing equipment. Most sewing machine manufacturers who did exhibit agreed that business has been tough in the U.S., and that they are looking elsewhere to expand their businesses and increase sales.

Scott Fullerton, director of marketing for AMF REECE INC., explained, “Business is changing. It’s going to Mexico, South America, China and the Far East. One of the biggest challenges is following it and finding out where they’re making the clothes.”

David Siegelman, president of LECTRA SYSTEMS INC, said, “People are cutting here and sending [the parts] offshore for sewing.” Peter Tredwin, vice president of sales and world marketing, agreed, saying, “The only part of the business that’s drifting away from the U.S. is cut-and-sew, which is labor intensive, and that’s going to countries where labor is low cost.” GERBER GARMENT TECHNOLOGY and Lectra Systems vied for the busiest exhibit at the show. Like last year, GGT focused its efforts on the introduction of Gerbersuite, a group of products and systems that provide manufacturers with an array of interconnecting systems used for design and merchandising, pre-production, spreading, cutting and assembly. A video testimonial to the system’s effectiveness by the chief executive officers of five North American apparel makers – Jos. J. Pietrafesa, HIS, Jones New York, Oshkosh B’Gosh and Nygard – was aired at the booth.

GGT also introduced its Gerberspreader S100, a single-ply, single-roll fabric feeder designed for conveyorized automated cutting. It is especially useful for manufacturers that often need to cut many styles and fabrics. In addition to its new products, GGT unveiled updated versions of established systems, including a shuttle configuration to its Samplemaker and an Artworks Version 2.5.

Lectra Systems stressed integration and communication – systems that share information created in any of Lectra’s software throughout the customer’s company. It also emphasized its alliance with Sophis Systems NV and IRIS Graphics in the design area. Lectra added e-mail and Internet access to its Stylebinder software, expanded its ProStyle design software by integrating some modules designed in Sophis.

The TEXTILE/CLOTHING TECHNOLOGY CORP., or [TC]2, demonstrated its new T-shirt sleeve-insertion machine being developed with Jet Sew. The machine has a dual-head sleeve station that automatically sews while the operator prepares the next sleeve and shirt body.

Assyst Inc. showcased its Wild TA500 MC cutter/marker and conveyor for sample cutting. According to Thomas Baur, it eliminates downtime because it enables cardboard stencils to be cut and advanced automatically and requires no interruption to remove cut pieces.

In the software arena, Assyst launched its made-to-measure program for men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and announced the addition of Internet access to its software.

Other notable software innovations at the show included:

Inves-nt (by INVESTRONICA INC.) – a complete line of software extending through the entire apparel production process.
Knitted Fabric Engineering (by JONATHON COPE ASSOCIATES) – a program that optimizes knitting conditions for efficient, defect-free operations that improve machine use and cut costs.
Style Manager 97 (by ANIMATED IMAGES INC.) – with new features including a sewn goods drawing icon tool bar. Also Transfer File, which takes information from one database to another, sending files through the Internet.
A new textile design system (from MODACAD) – with random repeat generator, half-tone mixing, tonal, advanced featuring tools, palette blender and sophisticated color calibration.
SEWN 2000 update (by RICHTER SYSTEMS) – a graphical user interface for its softgoods manufacturing/ distribution system that offers access to the system’s support and query capabilities.
Knit design software (by MONARCH DESIGN SYSTEMS) – which creates realistic simulations of designs and prints them out before going to a sample.
Computer technology was not the only area of innovation at Bobbin, however. In the cutting arena, EASTMAN MACHINE COMPANY, which took a larger booth this year, introduced several new machines at this edition of the show, including its EC3X2 continuous cutting conveyor system (nicknamed the “Beast”). It is designed for nearly all low-ply textiles, including plastics and vinyl. Also new this year are the CR 500 Cradle Fee spreading machine with a touch keypad control panel.

In sewing, AMF Reece’s most revolutionary machine, according to Scott Fullerton, is its S-2000 straight buttonhole, chainstitch sewing machine. It is a simple, completely redesigned machine, using 40 percent fewer parts than the previous model. The company also introduced its S-104-400 (an electronic-stop, pneumatic cord trimmer for eyelet buttonholes), a Lockwelt 2000 (an economical pocket-welter) and its Speedwelt 1000 (an inexpensive chainstitch sewer).

Juki Union Special Inc. demonstrated an array of new equipment, including its prototype Pick and Place label loading device and two machines for T-shirt production.

Other new sewing models included:

the WT264 coverstitcher (PEGASUS CORPORATION OF AMERICA) – for sleeve hemming in the children’s market;
new hemmers, seamers, elastic-band setters and closers (ATLANTA ATTACHMENT COMPANY);
a bottoms air folder (YAMATO);
and a T-shirt bottom hemmer (JET SEW TECHNOLOGIES).
New software and hardware for the embroidery trade came from MacPherson Meistergram (updated software programs and a high-frequency appliqué/embossing machine for PVC and PVC-backed material), Saurer Textile Systems (shuttle embroiderer) and Tajima Industries (a nine-needle, 20-head machine and a chenille machine).
In addition to the machines, design programs and software updates offered by the exhibitors, the Bobbin Show debuted The Ink Spot, a new section for screen-printing technology and services. First-time exhibitors in the section included AIR WAVES INC. with its Transtitch transfer and Perspectives, a silk-screen printer, and VISUAL EDGE TECHNOLOGIES, with its digital-dye sublimation imaging technology.