textile equipment, textile machinery africa, ethiopia, tanzania

  FLAT KNITTING TECHNOLOGY: Shaping the future

      Knitting Trade Journal - Issue 1/2009

A continued interest in fine gauge knitwear and improvements to speed up complete garment knitting are just some of the important developments that knitwear manufacturers will be looking for from V-bed knitting machinery over the current year.

The field of flat knitting machine builders continued to narrow in 2008 with Italy's Protti becoming the latest high profile casualty of an industry that, for now, continues to contract. News of the company's demise was then followed by a decision from the organisers of IKME, the international knitting and finishing machinery exhibition, scheduled to take place in Milan in November 2009, to postpone in the light of the current state of the global financial markets and the subsequent impact on the international textile market. Although the cancellation of the show may not come as too much of a surprise to some in the industry, many will be hopeful that this pledge to reschedule once the economy picks up is upheld.

Despite the apparent gloom, this has not prevented the research and development departments at the sector's remaining major players continuing to astound and amaze with new ideas and innovations designed to advance the flat knitting industry throughout the world.

The result is a feast of new knitting technology for knitwear producers with the main technical trends highlighting a wider range of knitwear gauges with a strong emphasis on both fine and coarse gauges; wider needle-bed width for larger size products; and improved yarn feed systems.

Over the following pages, Knitting Trade Journal looks in detail at the latest of these technological developments. We then follow this up with input from some of the industry's most, well respected names as we scrutinise the market for this technology and the knitwear it produces in traditional markets such as the US and Italy and Scotland .

Elsewhere, as labour costs increase in China and the demand for exports from western countries slows, the market is shifting at the moment to finer gauge knitwear but as this is not always predictable companies are supply flat knitting solutions for every application in both traditional and complete garment methods.

Indeed, complete garment knitting has become increasingly popular as an alternative to conventional knitting in some markets. Its benefits include better fit and comfort through 3D shaping, improved draping by elimination of seams, and minimum materials usage through one-piece construction. The reduction in sewing and linking processes also results in quick-response production, less dependence on diminishing skilled labour sources, and of course, savings in labour costs .

For some, this technology can be regarded as the ideal solution to the ongoing problems facing knitting companies in areas such as the EU, the United States and Japan where knitwear manufacturers are finding it more and more difficult to survive under the onslaught of inexpensive imports from Asia.

However, advancements in the more traditional knitting methods also abound and this feature offers a detailed round-up of what each of the major machine builders have on offer.

To make matters worse, the government has so far failed to come up with any initiatives aimed at stemming the flood of apparel production operations moving out of China to neighbouring countries. Further highlighting the seriousness of the problem for China is the news that India, a major competitor for China in terms of apparel production, buoyed by the success of a seven-year modernisation program, is to extend the scheme for a further five years.

Renowned for its circular knitting machine technology, Taiwan's Pai Lung has embarked on a new chapter in its history with the launch of the PLF-KS 132, its first computerised flat knitting machine.

Pai Lung says it was inspired to enter the flat knitting market after requests from a number of its clients. "Why not enter the flat knitting market," says James Wang, Pai Lung's President. "After several year of efforts, our tried and trusted technique and design capability has surpassed all of our expectations. Combined with our proven circular knitting machine technology, the PLF-KS 132 means our clients are now able to efficiently produce a variety of products that will both broaden their service range and boost their production capabilities.

"The Pai Lung PLF-KS 132, which can be handled by a single operative conducting the equivalent of six operators, removes all boundaries for knitting fabrics" .

The PLF-KS 132 has been deemed particularly suitable for markets such as China where there is a growing market for highly productive flat knitting machines. The machine is based on the same design concept as the company's circular knitting machines containing a built-in centre production management and control system that is able to collect extremely precise levels of data for users. It is also equipped with PLC and a communication interface and as such is able to connect to Pai Lung's on-line monitoring system, which provides electronic yarn rate monitoring and tape speed control.

The PLF-KS 132 is also equipped with the highest quality cam and needle cylinder components which, says Pai Lung, guarantees optimum functioning levels and durability.

According to the company, the PLF-KS 132 also features the highest quality contra-sinker, pull down device, loop presser bed, split transfer jack bed and yarn carrier kickback device,all of which contribute to high production levels. " The system achieves the All-fashion and best quality' idea while knitting a variety of gauges ranging from tighter, fine-gauge fabrics to more breathable, lower gauge fabrics," says the company.