Shima Seiki's latest developments have been borne from the stratagem that there will be an increasing shift to higher quality garments, the production of which will need to be achieved with lower labour costs and reduced manpower.
To better understand Shima's level of surprise with the amount of interest in its new high speed, high productivity Mach 2X WholeGarment flat knitting system, one must first have an understanding of how the company has presented its developments to existing and prospective customers.
Aware of the changing market condition in both China and overseas, Shima's most recent marketing theme covering its current and future technology is divided into two distinct zones, each representing different target areas within the Chinese market.
Illustrated at last year's ITMA Asia, one side represented the 'Present Zone', which displayed products geared for today's Chinese market such at the classic SSG and SIG series shaped knitting machines and the SDS-One design system, while the other side of the floor displayed the 'Future Zone' with the current offerings in WholeGarment knitting and 3D design technology for tomorrow's market needs.
"We were genuinely surprised at the level of serious interest in our Future Zone," says Masaki Karasuno, creative director of
Shima's Corporate Planning Division. "But what this in fact confirmed to us is that the future development of the Chinese market will be as we suspected."
Shima Seiki has been serving the Chinese market with its range of flat knitting technology for many years.
However, as Mr. Karasuno points out, the market is shifting and with it, is Shima Seiki's strategy for the region. It's widely accepted that the textile and clothing market in the country has long been dependent on the export market. However, as demand from the major destinations such as the US and Western Europe have shrunk, so knitwear and fabric manufacturers in China have suffered.
"People in China are becoming increasingly fashion conscious," says Mr. Karasuno. "As this happens, and export markets shrink, there will have to be an increasing demand from the domestic market.
And where in the past, this has meant commodity, low-end products, Shima Seiki is predicting an increasing shift to higher quality garments, the production of which will need to be achievable with lower labour costs and, as a result of rising wages, reduced manpower."
It is this strategic thinking that has led Shima Seiki to push its WholeGarment technology into China. Requiring a technology to meet all the aforementioned criteria, the company has developed the Mach series of machines.
Like the SWG-X on which it is based, the new Mach2X is a WholeGarment machine that features 4 needle beds and Shima's original SlideNeedle.And like the SWG-X, it has been designed to knit shaped, high quality garments that conform to the body for improved comfort.
As the Mach name suggests, the Mach2X's key selling points are its speed and productivity although its ability to knit in a variety of gauges is also an invaluable asset. The machine on display in Shanghai was a 15G machine. However, the system's capacity to utilise selective needles, coupled with a new R2 Carriage system that increases the maximum knitting speed to 1.6 metres per second and permits quicker carriage returns for higher efficiency per knitted course, meant that the machine was shown producing a 12G garment in an astonishing 18 minutes and 52 seconds - a process that in the past would have taken around 45 minutes.
Equipped with 12 yarn carriers and 24 tension devices, speed is also improved with the Split Stitch technique which eliminates empty courses while quality is further enhanced by the production of a tighter, springier fabric, especially for rib borders and cuffs.
Standard on Mach2X are both the DSCS Digital stitch control system and i-DSCS, a quality control device that actively regulates yarn tension to provide consistent loop length ensuring manufacturers have consistent quality among different production batches and repeat orders.
Developed alongside the Mach 2X is the Mach 2S which also offers WholeGarment capability with both speed and versatility.
Based this time on the SES-S-WG, the 2S, as a conventional shaping machine, is capable of all-needle knitting in its available range of 12 -16G, while WholeGarment knitwear can be produced in half-gauge fabrics. At the show, the 2S was knitting in I 6G but the versatility of the machine means it can utilise every other needle effectively knitting in 7G or aG.
The Mach2X is characterised by its high speed and high quality productivity