The First Robots

When it comes to how modern society views and values technology, sewing machines are vastly underrated. Their impact cannot be understated: prior to the invention of the sewing machine, all clothing was sewn by hand. People used to toil hour after hour, inconsistent handstitch after inconsistent handstitch. These days, a basic sewing machine can sew 1,000 perfect stitches per minute, and that is the tip of the iceberg of their full capability. The further you go, the clearer it becomes that sewing machines are essentially the first robots.
(1) Robot by Definition
ro·bot – rōˌbät,ˈrōbət – noun
a type of automated machine that can execute specific tasks with little or no human intervention and with speed and precision.
It is truly uncanny how easily a sewing machine fits into the definition of a robot. When you sew a basic straight stitch, all you are doing is threading the machine and pressing the foot pedal. The machine does the rest: perfect stitch after perfect stitch for as long as you want. The same applies to embroidery. For the person who operates the embroidery machine, all they need to do is hoop the fabric in the proper position and cue up the desired design (AKA minimal human intervention). The machine does rest of the work (AKA a specific task): hundreds, if not thousands, of stitches perfectly coordinated to create a beautiful piece of art. Do you know what that sounds like to me? An automated machine that can execute specific tasks with little or no human intervention and with speed and precision– a robot.
(2) Helper & Companion
Apart from the official definition, when I think of a robot in everyday terms, I think of something like CP30 or R2D2 from Star Wars: an advanced piece of technology that is not only my personal helper, but my companion as well. What is your sewing machine if not both a personal helper and companion? Not only does a machine help people mend clothing and express creativity, in many cases it will serve as one’s companion as well. This has been made clear to me more than ever over the last 18 months during the pandemic. Being stuck at home, unable to participate in many out-of-the-home activities, your machine means more to you now than ever. We see it in our repair department, overflowing with machines in need of TLC after months and months of mask-making and quilting. We also see it up front, with people pouring into the store to upgrade their old machine to something modern with upgraded capabilities.
(3) Real World Application
Did you know that some of the big sewing machine manufacturers like Janome, Juki, and Brother also manufacture real-world robots? Below we have linked you to a couple Youtube videos of Janome and Brother robotics:
Brother Speedio R450X1 - Universal Robots UR10e
Janome Desktop Robot Touch Screen Testing with CMM Table
From cams to computers, the hand-crank to the DC brushless motor, innovation is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the sewing machine industry. As we have already established, sewing machines are robots. In the case of Janome, they have been manufacturing sewing machines for over 100 years. It is no wonder they have become involved in the robotics industry, because, in a sense, they already have over 100 years of experience in robots. You own one yourself. We call those robots “sewing machines.”
Here at The Sewing Machine Shop, we genuinely believe that sewing machines are the first robots. This fact goes unrecognized, a secret hiding in plain sight. People generally don’t appreciate the human ingenuity required to make sewing machine engineering possible. We do. We also appreciate people who sew– people like you– who have shown both the desire and know-how to operate these exciting machines. Your knowledge, skill, and creativity is impressive. We recognize that, and we hope you do, too.
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