Insource those jobs to American Robots!
Americans may never again buy clothes labeled “made in China” if robot sewing machines can beat Chinese costs of labor. The Pentagon has given $1.2 million to a Georgia Tech spinoff company to turn that futuristic concept into reality.Such computer-controlled sewing machines must precisely move fabric under the needle “stitch by stitch” and carefully track passing threads — a job normally done with human hands and eyesight. Success could lead to automated U.S. factories that “produce garments with zero direct labor,” according to the contract issued by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on June 5.The idea of making garment cutting and sewing a profitable U.S. business came from Steve Dickerson, founder and chief technology officer of Softwear Automation (the Georgia Tech spinoff company that received DARPA’s recent $1.2 million funding). [6 Tips for Inventors From a DARPA Program Manager]Dickerson realized the possibility for robotic sewing machines after observing that sewn items had disappeared almost entirely from his hometown of Commerce, Ga., and most of the United States. The U.S. currently imports about $100 billion worth of clothes and sewn items each year — much of it from countries such as China or Vietnam. . . .Success could spell out huge disruptions for workers as robots continue taking over human jobs in manufacturing and other industries. Low-paid workers in developing countries stand to lose out the most in this case, but U.S. workers won’t gain much, either. Still, U.S. businesses could once again regain a foothold in the garment industry and win back a share of international trade.
Protectionists rejoice! Luddites rebel!