If you’re in the sewing industry, you’re going to need industrial sewing machines to get the job done. These specific sewing machines run at high speeds and produce different results, depending on the kind you buy. Some machines are developed for specific seams and stitches, so you need to make sure you get the right kind of machines for your purpose.
Types of Industrial Sewing Machines
Regarding these types of industrial sewing machines, the primary differentiation between them is based on the design of the bed. These four different sewing machine bed styles and their uses are as follows:
- Flatbed: The most common type, these machines resemble traditional sewing machines in that the arm and needle extend over the flat base of the machine. Workers typically use this machine for sewing flat pieces of fabric together. Some type of fabric feed mechanism is usually housed in the bed (see below).
- Cylinder bed: These machines feature a narrow, cylindrical bed as opposed to a flat base. This allows the fabric to pass around and under the bed. Workers employ the cylinder-bed machine for sewing cylindrical pieces such as cuffs, but it is also useful for bulky and curved items such as saddles and shoes.
- Post bed: These machines feature bobbins, feed dogs, and/or loopers in a vertical column that rises above the flat base of the machine. The height of this column can vary depending on the machine and its application. Applications that make access to the sewing area difficult, such as attaching emblems, or boot or glove making, utilize the post-bed machine.
- Feed-off-the-arm: The least common group, these machines extend a cylindrical bed out from the back of the machine perpendicular to the direction taken by the bed of the cylinder-bed machine. This allows for long runs of tubular goods, such as the inseams of trousers, and is useful for sewing sleeves and shoulder seams.
Other special purpose sewing machines exist, as well. Portable and fixed electric units are often employed for closing large sacks of agricultural products, dog food, etc. Bookbinders use special machines in their operations. Carpet installers also use special machines for binding carpet. Embroidering and monogramming machines are used for textile customization and decorating and are often program-controlled. Special long arm machines are made for sailmakers and purpose-built machines are available for cobblers.
If you’re looking to purchase new machines for your business but don’t know which is best for your needs, take a look at our guide to the different types of industrial sewing machines, as well as their most common uses.
Lockstitch Sewing Machines
Lockstitch sewing machines, in the case of a single needle, forms lock stitches with one needle thread and one bobbin thread. The needle penetrates the fabric from the top and brings the needle thread through the fabric to the bottom to form a stitch. It is the most common mechanical stitch that can be made by a sewing machine.
This type of sewing machine is also known as the plain needle sewing machine. There are typically two types of this kind of machine:
- Single needle lockstitch machine: a single needle is used.
- Double-needle lockstitch machine: two needles are used with a single shank to give two parallel rows on the front of the fabric and a zig-zag stitch on the back.
These machines are very common in sewing factories and can be used to sew the likes of shirts, jackets, suits, overcoats, curtains, bags, leather, wool, and bed covers. They are essentially used for joining two or more fabric piles together, typically for lightweight, medium weight and heavy materials.
An overlock sewing machine uses multiple threads to seam a fabric while also covering its raw edges. This machine can be used for both construction and finishing and can use as many as two to eight threads – but most techniques require three to four.
These machines are designed to stitch over the edge of fabric pieces to create a neat edge that will not fray. An overlock sewing machine will typically cut the edges of the fabric as it is fed through, though some do not have cutters. They run at high speeds and are used industrially for edging, hemming, and seaming a variety of products.
The types of stitches overlock machines produce depend on the number of threads they use, such as in the following formations:
- One-thread: For end-to-end seaming
- Two-thread: For edging and seaming
- Three-thread: For creating hems, finishing edges etc.
- Four-thread: For decorative edging and finishing
- Five-thread: For creates a very strong seam
These machines will help give your products a more finished, professional look.
Flatlock Sewing Machine
Flatlock sewing machines are used for completing a garment. Decorative threads are used to create a textured embellishment effect. The stitch creates a seam that is flat and has a matching appearance both inside and out, overlocking on both sides of the seam.
The stitch uses one needle and the upper and lower loops. They work similarly to overlock machines, but the flatlock doesn’t use layers on the underside; the seam is butted together, joining them together is a flat and single layer with thread.
Flatlock sewing machines are typically used on the likes of swimwear, sportswear and on baby’s clothes, or any project where a decorative exposed seam is required.
A chainstitch sewing machine is a kind of sewing machine that stitches looped stitches to form a chain-line pattern. It is an ancient craft, with examples of it being found in Chinese embroidery work as far back at the 5th to 3rd century BC. The stitch does not require the needle to pass through more than one layer of fabric, making it an effective embellishment on finished fabric.
The machine has two variants: the basic chain stitch and the double chain stitch. The basic stitch being the more common, as the double stitch requires two threads and thus uses up a lot of thread.
Chainstitch machines are common for use during hemming or making patterns on pieces of cloth. Its purpose is decorative.
Sewing Machine Feeds
We have a whole article explaining different industrial sewing machines fabric feeding mechanisms. Typically, industrial sewing machines that deliver numerous feed capabilities are more expensive. The main types of feed mechanisms are:
- Drop feed: The feed mechanism lies below the machine's sewing surface. This is probably the most common feed type. Toothed segments called feed dogs lift and advance the fabric between each stitch, with the teeth pressing upwards and sandwiching the material against a presser foot.
- Needle feed: The needle itself acts as the feed mechanism, which minimizes slippage and allows workers to sew multiple layers of fabric.
- Walking foot: The immobile presser foot is replaced with a foot that moves with the feed, which allows easier performance on thick, spongy, or cushioned materials.
- Puller feed: The machine grips and pulls straight-seamed material as it is sewn and can perform on large, heavy-duty items such as canvas tents.
- Manual feed: The feed is controlled entirely by the worker, who can do delicate, personal work such as shoe repair, embroidering, and quilting. On industrial sewing machines, it is sometimes necessary to remove the feed dogs to obtain a manual feed.
The application of an industrial sewing machine is also an important factor to consider. For example, some machines come with an automatic pocket setter, while others include pattern programmability or electronic eyelet buttonholers. Furthermore, the strength and design of the machine needs to complement the type of material being sewn. Higher quality machines will likely be necessary for medium to heavy materials, such as denim, while base level industrial machines may be adequate for lighter materials, such as cotton.
A particular machine’s available stitch types can vary. There are several dozen distinct types of stitches, each requiring between one and seven threads. Plain, or straight stitches are the most used stitches in industrial sewing and include lock, chain, overlock, and cover stitch. Sailmakers, on the other hand, use zigzag stitching to better tolerate seam loading between sail panels.
Yet another important feature is the size and speed of the industrial sewing machine. More expensive machines will be able to sew more stitches per minute. Larger machines provide a larger clearance area under the foot and bigger bed size.
Many industrial machines are sold without motors and can be operated with either clutch motors or servomotors, depending on the user’s needs. Clutch motors run constantly and power to the machine is transmitted by depressing a foot treadle to actuate the clutch. Servomotors run on demand and are speed controllable as well, much as are home sewing machines. Both motor types are available for 120V or 240V AC power. Raising of the presser foot is often done with a knee paddle to allow the operator full use of both hands. Although many home machines can do a wide variety of operations, production sewing often uses machines that are set up for specific tasks such as bar tacking, buttonhole making, etc. Machines for tailors and seamstresses are likely to be capable of a fuller range of operations.