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Industrial sewing machines differ from traditional consumer sewing machines in many ways. An industrial sewing machine with embroidery machine parts is specifically built for long term, professional sewing tasks and is therefore constructed with superior durability, parts, and motors. Whereas traditional sewing machines might include nylon or plastic gears, an industrial sewing machine’s gears, connecting rods, housings, and body are typically constructed from high-quality metals, such as cast iron or aluminum. Beyond that, industrial sewing machines are made to handle thick materials such as leather, produce faster stitch rates, and incorporate stouter, more positive feed components than do their consumer equivalents.
Types of Industrial Sewing Machines
With regard to these types of industrial sewing machines, the primary differentiation between them is based on the design of the bed. These four different sewing machine bed styles and their uses are as follows:
Flatbed: The most common type, these machines resemble traditional sewing machines in that the arm and needle extend over the flat base of the machine. Workers typically use this machine for sewing flat pieces of fabric together. Some type of fabric feed mechanism is usually housed in the bed (see below).
Cylinder-bed: These machines feature a narrow, cylindrical bed as opposed to a flat base. This allows the fabric to pass around and under the bed. Workers employ the cylinder-bed machine for sewing cylindrical pieces such as cuffs, but it is also useful for bulky and curved items such as saddles and shoes.
Post-bed: These machines feature bobbins, feed dogs, and/or loopers in a vertical column that rises above the flat base of the machine. The height of this column can vary depending on the machine and its application. Applications that make access to the sewing area difficult, such as attaching emblems, or boot or glove making, utilize the post-bed machine.
Off-the-arm: The least common group, these machines extend a cylindrical bed out from the back of the machine perpendicular to the direction taken by the bed of the cylinder-bed machine. This allows for long runs of tubular goods, such as the inseams of trousers, and is useful for sewing sleeves and shoulder seams.
Other special-purpose sewing machines exist, as well. Portable and fixed electric units are often employed for closing large sacks of agricultural products, dog food, etc. Bookbinders use special machines in their operations. Carpet installers also use special machines for binding carpet. Embroidering and monogramming machines are used for textile customization and decorating and are often program-controlled. Special long arm machines are made for sailmakers and purpose-built machines are available for cobblers.
Sewing Machine Feeds
Different industrial sewing machines offer several ways to feed the material. Typically, industrial sewing machines that deliver numerous feed capabilities are more expensive. The main types of feed mechanisms are:
Drop feed: The feed mechanism lies below the machine’s sewing surface. This is probably the most common feed type. Toothed segments called feed dogs lift and advance the fabric between each stitch, with the teeth pressing upwards and sandwiching the material against a presser foot.
Needle feed: The needle itself acts as the feed mechanism, which minimizes slippage and allows workers to sew multiple layers of fabric. There is also super multi head lace embroidery machine.
Walking foot: The immobile presser foot is replaced with a foot that moves with the feed, which allows easier performance on thick, spongy or cushioned materials.
Puller feed: The machine grips and pulls straight-seamed material as it is sewn and can perform on large, heavy-duty items such as canvas tents.
Manual feed: The feed is controlled entirely by the worker, who can do delicate, personal work such as shoe repair, embroidering, and quilting. On industrial sewing machines, it is sometimes necessary to remove the feed dogs to obtain a manual feed.
The application of an industrial sewing machine is also an important factor to consider. For example, some machines come with an automatic pocket setter, while others include pattern programmability or electronic eyelet buttonholers. Furthermore, the strength and design of the machine needs to complement the type of material being sewn. Higher quality machines will likely be necessary for medium to heavy materials, such as denim, while base level industrial machines may be adequate for lighter materials, such as cotton.
A particular machine’s available stitch types can vary. There are several dozen distinct types of stitches, each requiring between one and seven threads. Plain, or straight stitches are the most commonly used stitches in industrial sewing and include lock, chain, overlock, and coverstitch. Sailmakers, on the other hand, use zig-zag stitching to better tolerate seam loading between sail panels.
Yet another important feature is the size and speed of the industrial sewing machine. More expensive machines will be able to sew more stitches per minute. Larger machines provide a larger clearance area under the foot and bigger bed size. Also, different embroidery machine series has different features.
Many industrial machines are sold without motors and can be operated with either clutch motors or servomotors, depending on the user’s needs. Clutch motors run constantly and power to the machine is transmitted by depressing a foot treadle to actuate the clutch. Servomotors run on demand and are speed controllable as well, much as are home sewing machines. Both motor types are available for 120 or 240 vac power. Raising of the presser foot is often done with a knee paddle to allow the operator full use of both hands. Although many home machines are able to do a wide variety of operations, production sewing often uses machines that are set up for specific tasks such as bar tacking, buttonhole making, etc. Machines for tailors and seamstresses are likely to be capable of a fuller range of operations.