The advent of digital knitting machines has brought about a transformative change in the textile industry. These machines, backed by fundraising efforts in 2017, are now on the verge of being deployed. This article explores the digitalization of workflows, business models, and culture in the context of these machines and their impact.
Digital knitting machines are set to revolutionize industrial knitting, offering a new category of versatile machines. They produce high-quality knitted fabrics for clothing and textiles, executing commands related to size, shape, pattern, and design, using up to six different yarns per row. These machines can turn any image file into a knitting pattern and operate fully automatically.
At a cost similar to that of an Apple Mac Pro, individuals can now produce industry-quality knitwear with custom designs in their workshops. This digital shift parallels historical examples where technology transformed industries, such as Jacquard machines in the 1800s, which played a role in early computing.
Digital design and production simplify the knitting process, shifting the required expertise from machine operation to digital design and marketing. This aligns with trends in fast prototyping, platform-based economies, customization, and sustainability.
In the fashion industry, as in others, computer-aided design (CAD) and rapid prototyping are set to disrupt traditional business models, fostering transparency in supply chains and enabling individuals with diverse skill sets to engage in knitting.
An analogous development is the B2B use of 3D printing, which has evolved significantly in the last 30 years. Digital knitting machines are often referred to as the 3D printers for yarns, both enabling the mechanical production of objects from digital files.
Crucially, digital knitting is already available globally to knit any digital design.
In the current environmental context, the digital knitting machine service holds potential for reducing the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. It supports on-demand production, minimizes unworn garments, offers transparency, and reduces transportation emissions. This aligns with growing consumer interest in sustainable and eco-friendly practices within the fashion industry.