Kniterate have developed a knitting machine that bridges the gap between domestic machines which are manually driven and inflexible, and industrial machines which are large, expensive, and require a technician to run. After raising over $600,000 on Kickstarter in May 2017, they’re now producing first run of machines in China. Their aim is to make automated knitting more accessible:
We have developed Kniterate because we want everyone to be able to explore knitting’s potential. Until now this was only possible with industrial knitting machines, which cost upwards of $50,000, take a lot of space and are hard to use. With Kniterate you can make professional knitwear to measure at the click of a button and repeat and share your favourite designs over and over again. We are bringing garment manufacturing back to your neighborhood. 1
How is it redistributive?
In the 1980s and 1990s, desktop computers made business and creative tools accessible to a much wider set of customers, and revolutionised many industries in the process. Affordable desktop fabrication machines like Kniterate could continue the trend. And unlike many other accessible digital fabrication tools, a knitting machine can produce goods which already have a large market, and to a standard that mainstream customers are willing to accept.
A Kniterate machine could be one part of a chain in which locally sourced fibres are used to produce garments for a local market, at a micro-factory close to both the raw materials and the customer.
What are the barriers to mainstream success?
It’s to early to say what effect the availability of these machines will have on the small enterprises who have access to them. But as the machines reach the first customers, we’ll be looking to see how a distributed network of digital fabrication machines could compete with mass manufactured garments on price, quality, distribution and other factors.
- Addressing the problem of how to automate workflows for desktop fabrication tools (in this case 3D printers) to allow for larger batch runs.
- Also working with knitted garments, but looking at a consumer-facing system for customising designs, which are then handed off to factory partners to produce (currently with large industrial knitting machines)
How to exhibit
- A kniterate machine – if available – could be set up in the exhibition space to produce garments live.
- Garments from their kickstarter campaign: e.g. scarf
- Videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2s5eQhQyJ45085HIwyY4mQ
Filling the Automation Gap in Garment Manufacturing
Moritz Walter, Hackaday, August 2016