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NTC Project: S09-NS02

Integrated System to Design/Produce Engineered Knit Garments

Code Number: S09-NS02


Project Team:
Leader: Traci A.M. Lamar, traci_lamar@ncsu.edu
Nancy B. Powell, nancy_powell@ncsu.edu
Lisa Parillo Chapman, llparril@ncsu.edu

Graduate Students: Reva Erskin


Cuicui Ruan

Goal Statement: The purpose of this project is to develop an expert knowledge base incorporating yarn structure,
knit structure, end product requirements and finishing, and to create an integrated system for the design,
visualization, development and production of engineered knitted garments.

Abstract:
Innovations in knitting technology, such as integral and seamless knitting, have intrinsically connected the
creative designer and technical designer with the production of knitted garments. Currently, there is no recognized
system for producing engineered knit garments that integrates yarns, knit process and structure, visualization, and
finishing with the aesthetic and performance attributes required of knitted garments suited to the unique demands of
varied end uses. We seek to develop an integrated system for engineered knit garment creation that will enable
production of a unique, knitted garment engineered to a specific purpose or end-use. The system is envisioned to
support creation and modification of aesthetic and technical design attributes in a virtual environment, followed by
the addition of technical knit production data, all through an integrated process. Our approach includes building
upon existing industry capabilities to define and create the fundamental linkages required to bridge industry
segments and produce an integrated “concept to production” system for engineered knit garments.

Objective:
Knitted garments hold tremendous potential for providing innovative design solutions for aesthetic and
performance challenges in applications such as medical, sports, fashion and military apparel. Paradigm changing
innovations in knitting technology, such as integral and seamless knitting, have intrinsically connected the creative
designer and technical designer with the production of knitted garments (see Figure 1). Currently, there is no
recognized system for producing engineered knit garments that integrates yarns, knit process and structure,
visualization, and finishing that will deliver the aesthetic and performance attributes necessary to realize the
expanding opportunities for knitted garments; an entirely new body of knowledge is needed. This lack of
fundamental knowledge prohibits integral knitting and other component technologies from being fully utilized in the
creation of engineered knits. This work will address the problem by laying the foundation of fundamental
knowledge needed to exploit the potential of engineered knits in research, consumer and business applications.

The purpose of this project is to develop an expert knowledge base incorporating yarn structure, knit
structure, end product requirements and finishing, and to create an integrated system for the design, visualization,
development and production of engineered knitted garments. The system is envisioned to enable production of a
unique, knitted garment engineered to a specific purpose or end-use via creation and modification of the aesthetic
and technical design in a virtual environment followed by the addition of technical knit production data all through
an integrated process. In three years, the team plans to develop the system and supporting databases and validate
them through application to sample production. Once developed, the system will have application for not only
garments, but for creating any type of knitted textile covering for any product that can be simulated with 3-D
technologies, such as transportation, commercial and residential seating.

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This project addresses the objectives of NTC through the development of a knowledgebase and an
integrated system that will provide a fundamental understanding of how the technologies that support engineered
knit garment production can be integrated in an efficient concept through a product realization chain. In the last few
years, component technologies for integral knitting and non-contact body measurement equipment have advanced in
terms of capabilities like 3-D virtual model import and export, but each remains an unconnected, isolated island of
technology. The cross-disciplinary work and integration of technologies required for successful engineered knit
garment design and production is virtually undocumented by researchers. Research that is undertaken is almost
exclusively in the private sector and not disseminated to the industry as a whole. Development of a knowledgebase
and integrated system is a critical step in realizing the potential of engineered knits on a broad scale. Moving
forward, this project will provide an academic foundation to support researchers and practitioners working within a
single location or globally, and the intellectual framework needed to drive engineered garment innovation in
industry. Such a fundamental foundation is not currently available.
Background:
The term integrally knitted garment refers to apparel items that have typical cut and sew operations that are
knitted on the machine. These operations include addition of button holes, collars, and pockets and attachment of
sleeve to the garment body [1]. Integral knitting differs from cut and sew, and fully fashioned knitted apparel in that
no seaming is required to complete production. Seam failure in knitted products poses a significant reduction in
quality [2]; therefore by eliminating seams, the comfort, fit and longevity of a product can be improved.

In addition to the benefits posed by seam elimination, integral knitting allows for multiple types of knit
stitches to be strategically placed, or body mapped, on the knitted product. Body mapping allows increased control
of shaping and elastomeric properties by enabling the product developer to engineer knit stitches within the product
shape. Shaping by integral knitting is far superior to cut and sew or fully fashioned because the product is actually
knitted as a 3D shape, rather than as flat panels that acquire a shape by seaming [3,4]. Applications for performance
textiles, medical textiles, and shapewear garments would benefit from 3D shaping, as the knitted products could be
“molded” to the shape of the wearer. The ability to produce a 3D shaped knitted product coupled with strategic

stitch placement allows increased control of compression. The ability to engineer compression levels to the wearer‟s
body shape and size would be beneficial for athletic support and performance, medical or health needs, and aesthetic
knit products such as hosiery and shapewear. Seamless knitting introduces new capabilities; however, a fundamental
body of knowledge on this type of product development process does not yet exist, making full adoption and
exploitation of integral knitting difficult.

Design and production of integrally knitted products, particularly more advanced engineered knitted
garments, requires a comprehensive system for design and production, supported by a knowledge base and
integrated system that supports the translation of concept to final product. The ideal system must incorporate and
consider all aspects of knitted product manufacture such as raw materials (yarn and fiber), product shaping and
sizing, knit structure placement, coloration and finishing processes. Integral knitting machine manufacturers, such as
Shima Seiki, have associated CAD software that will accept virtual body images such as those producible with body
scanning technology [5], and then virtually simulated on a 3D image for accurate placement of knit structures [6].
However, the fundamental research needed to understand how to integrate such virtual information effectively into
the knit design process is unavailable. Globally, few people have the diverse knowledge needed to realize the
potential of engineered knit garments in their work, scholarly or commercial. The development of a system to
integrate design with production would enhance the performance, comfort, fit, and desirability of knitted garments.
Moreover, garments engineered to enhance the figure, improve functional movement or athletic performance, or
provide compression for health benefits and rehabilitation could be more easily customized to unique needs
supported by an integrated system and fundamental knowledgebase. With a smooth flow of information from the
creative design environment to the technical design environment supporting the knitting machine, to the knit
garment production and to the finishing, engineered knit garment producers would have the flexibility to adapt
product specifications as opportunities arose. In niche markets, such as medical compression garments and athletic
performance apparel, the process would offer not only efficiency in creation of existing products, but also offer
improved potential for innovation in products. Furthermore, the potential for a streamlined supply chain may well
reconfigure the relationships between designer, manufacturer, and consumer.

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Approach:
The approach we are taking with this project is to build upon existing industry capabilities to define and
create the fundamental linkages required to bridge industry segments and produce an integrated “concept to
production” system for engineered knit garments. We will conduct interviews and qualitative investigations to build
the knowledgebase needed to support an integrated system. Data collected from these investigations will determine
existing industry capabilities for body mapping (or engineered design), and also determine which linkages still need
to be developed. Intensive software and machine training, and observation of current product development sections
will occur at an integral knitting facility. This facility also conducts R&D for both domestic and international
companies, and has agreed to allow access for the investigators. A group of experts comprised of integral knitting
machine engineers, CAD developers, and integral knitting designers will be interviewed. When possible, the
principal investigators will conduct onsite training and observation of state-of the art integral knitting technologies.
We will analyze component technologies and engineered knitting variables including a) product requirements, b)
design parameters including machine capabilities, yarn structure, 3-D shaping and fit, performance, and finish, and
c) CAD functionality. Simultaneously, we will undertake a fundamental investigation of how engineering of knitted
garments is impacted by knit structure, yarn and finishing within the constraints of a specific knitting machine and
among machines. This fundamental investigation will focus on woman‟s integrally knitted apparel using cotton,
cotton/blend yarns in order to reduce variables. Fundamental knowledge gleaned from a focus on woman‟s apparel
will be applicable to other end products markets such as medical textiles or automotive seating. These learnings will
be incorporated into a knowledge base which can be merged into knitting CAD systems along with design
information for incorporation of knit structure and production data in a virtual environment. System validation will
be through application in actual production of engineered knit samples and evaluation from key industry players.
Progress Toward Established Goals:
The team established four midpoint goals to be reached within the first 17 months of the project. Since project
inception on August 1, 2009, in addition to recruiting and engaging two graduate students in the research, we have
made progress toward our research goals in several areas, as discussed in the following paragraphs.

Goal 1: Identification of experts and conducting interviews regarding relevant technologies, materials and
processes.

We have initiated work in this area by beginning to document relevant technologies, materials and processes
(Figure 1). We have concentrated efforts so far on the most critical elements – integral knitting equipment producers
and direct suppliers to the knitting process, that is yarn producers. In parallel work, we have started to identify
companies and individuals knowledgeable regarding seamless and integral knitting. We have already built a list of
experts including 63 contacts representing various segments of the industry.

In support of this project, we have also established an electronic literature database to house citations for, and links
to, relevant published work in the field. Each entry in the database will represent a relevant piece of academic,
patent or trade literature useful to the project. We have also built a print database of similar documents not available
electronically. The print database also houses some samples. Both databases are at the disposal of all team members
as we engage in project related work.

We have already confirmed support for the project from key industry players including representatives of
Lectra North America, Celanese Ltd., Shima Seiki U.S.A. Inc. and others. These parties represent essential
components for the success of the project. In moving forward, we will continue to dialogue with other equipment
vendors such as Stoll and Santoni, raw material vendors and industry organizations such as The Hosiery Association
and Cotton Incorporated. Through these dialogues, we hope to cultivate additional partnerships to enhance the
project.

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Figure 1: Initial Framework of Identified Technologies, materials, processes and linkages

Goal 2: Complete an analysis of the current status of existing processes including examination of different
approaches, successes and barriers to integration and implementation, and gaps to be addressed.

Figure 2 represents visually how an integrated process might flow. There are rare examples of this process
currently utilized by practitioners such as Shima Seiki (http://www.shimaseikiusa.com/shima7102_001.htm or
http://www.shimaseiki.com/wholegarment/and Santoni (http://www.santoni.com/en-azienda-seamlessstory.asp).
However, it is important to note that those with expertise to implement this type of integrated process are the
machine developers themselves. Only those entities have sufficient breadth and depth of explicit and tacit
knowledge of creative and technical design and production to implement such a process in a real world scenario.
Enabling implementation of such a business model on a broader scale will require the support of a knowledgebase
and system such as being developed here.

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Color/Yarn Selection
Input to Design System

Style Selection

Sizing

Production Knitting
Simulation

Knit Production

Figure 2. Process for Creation of Engineered Knit Garment (Images and concept taken from Factory Boutique Shima [7])

To initiate examination of existing processes, we have compiled a preliminary list of knitting machine
manufacturers and the seamless knitting equipment each offers. In a very general way we have documented the
approach utilized by each for the identified knitting equipment (see Table 1).

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Table 1. Seamless knitting machinery and approaches to knitting seamless

Company Machine Name Type Knitting Approach


MACH2X WHOLEGARMENT
MACH2S WHOLEGARMENT
SWG041N/061N/091N WHOLEGARMENT
SWG-FIRST WHOLEGARMENT
WHOLEGARMENT Flat Knitting Machine
SWG-X WHOLEGARMENT
Shima Seiki NewSWG-V WHOLEGARMENT
NewSES-S·WG WHOLEGARMENT
NewSES-C·WG WHOLEGARMENT
NewSFG Flat Knitting Machine
Seamless Glove Flat Knitting Machine
SPG
SPF-W Seamless Sock Flat Knitting Machine
CMS 730 S knit&wear
CMS 740 knit&wear
CMS 730 T knit&wear
Stoll Seamless Flat Knitting Machine
CMS 830 C knit&wear
CMS 822 HP knit&wear
CMS 830 S knit&wear
SM8-TOP1V
SM8-EVO4
SM8-TOP1 MP
SM8-TOP2
SM8-EVO4J(New)
Single Jersy Seamless Circular Knitting Machine
SM4-C
Circular Knitting Machine
Santoni SM4-PLUS3
SM4-TL2(New)
SM-TR2
SM12-EVO3
SM9-3W(New)
Double Jersy Seamless Circular Knitting Machine
SM9-MF(New)
SWD8 Warp Seamless Knitting Machine Warp Seamless Knitting Machine
Fantasia 1C HT
Fantasia 2C HT
Fantasia HTA
Sangiacomo 4100 HT Seamless Sock Circular Knitting Machine
Circular Knitting Machine
Star HT
Jumbo Chroma
Jumbo power
Uniplet EDIS 4.1C SIngle-cylinder Seamless Hosiery Knitting Machine
Shuishan SW8-W Seamless Knitting Machine Circular Knitting Machine

Goal 3: Determine relationships that will shape the selection of yarns, knit structures, gauge, etc. to achieve the
desired outcome for a garment.

It will be essential to understand the contribution that each component and its supplier provide to the
process and the finished product. Information available from industry organizations, publications, and events
focusing on seamless products will be utilized to establish the issues, trends, and barriers to further success of this
technology. Our initial research has identified over 60 companies from fiber to retail apparel who are engaged in the
development and marketing of seamless products.

Our early work has already revealed some relationships that influence aesthetic and technical design
decisions in relation to seamless and integrally knit garments. Seamless knitwear differs from integral knitting in
that seamless items are typically knit on a circular, body-size knitting machines that produce a shaped tube that then
requires further shaping by cutting around armholes and neck openings. In contrast, with integral knitting, the
product is knit to shape on a V-bed knitting machine (see figure 3). Seamless garments are prevalent in intimate
apparel at the higher gauge of knitting machines whether v-bed, circular or warp knit technologies. Seamless

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outerwear development has been primarily focused on heavier gauge sweaters for men and women. The growth of
shapewear and activewear has demanded a more complex combination of materials and structures in garments
beyond the basic “no or minimal side seams” construction. With the development of performance active wear, each
component has a role to play in creating the optimum garment to enhance the athlete‟s physical performance,
comfort and confidence. Additionally the aesthetic appearance of the garment for a professional athlete has a role to
play in promoting the brand.

Figure 3. A Comparison of Shaping Methods for Integral Knitting vs. Seamless Knitting

From fiber characteristics to yarn and complex structures, a finished integrally knitted garment must be
carefully engineered to provide the required attributes customized to the activity and the individual‟s
anatomy/physique. Body scanning technology and repeated fit sessions provide sizing dimension information for
better fit, appearance, and comfort. Selection of fibers and yarns with moisture and temperature management will
provide comfort advantages for the competitive athlete or intimate apparel.

The advancement of the knit machine technology such as transfer needles, variable gauge capability, and
sophisticated shaping methods can provide the designer with multiple possibilities to apply various knit
structures in different „zones‟ in the garment. Improvements in the seamless knitting process may also provide
reduction in materials waste, and savings in time, transportation and energy costs. Providing the market with better
products at competitive prices through an effective integrated system allows value to be recaptured in the
compressed supply chain.

Goal 4: Produce the preliminary integrated model.

All of the work described above in relation to our other goals is moving the team toward Goal 4. Our plan is to
integrate the information we glean in achieving each of the previous goals into a preliminary integrated model of our
system.

Project Website: S09-NS02

Acknowledgements:
Traci A.M. Lamar, Nancy B. Powell, Lisa Parillo Chapman, Reva Erskin, Cuicui Ruan

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References:

1 Spencer, D. J., Knitting technology : A comprehensive handbook and practical guide (3rd ed.). Cambridge,
England; Lancaster, Pa.: Woodhead Publishing Limited, 2001
2 Clapp, T., Gunner, M., Dorrity, J., Olson, L., The Online Inspection of Sewn Seams, Project S94-41, National
Textile Center, Annual Report, 1994
3 Powell, N.B., Mass Customization in Transportation Textiles through Shaped Three Dimensional Knitting ,
Proceedings: International Textile Design and Engineering Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, Heriot-Watt
University , Netherdale, Galashiels TD1 3HF, UK. September , 2003.
4 Hunter, B. (2005). Novel seamless sweater technique. Knitting International, 112(1324), 26-27.
5 TC2. (2004) Body Measurement Software System. Available online at:
http://www.tc2.com/products/body_software.html
6 Shima Seiki. (2006, August). The Future of Knitting Available Today. Available online at:
http://www.shimaseiki.co.jp/wholegarmente.html
7 Factory Boutique Shima, (2009) Our Products. Retrieved September 29, 2009 from http://fbshima.co.jp/

National Textile Center Annual Report: October 2009