28 | November | 2022

28 |  November |  2022

Weaving is one of the oldest crafts in the world, and was also among the first to be automated: the industrial revolution was largely driven by developments in loom technology. [Roger de Meester] decided to recreate that part of the industry’s history, in a way, by building its own stationary, fully automatic loom. After a long career in the textile industry, he is quite an expert when it comes to weaving, and as you will see, he is also an expert machine builder.

[Roger]his loom is of a certain type called a dobby loomwhich means that the vertical threads (the warping) can be moved up and down in different ways to create different patterns in the fabric. The horizontal wires (the feature) is created by a shuttle that moves left and right, carrying a spool that is unwound as it moves. A comb-shaped plate (den reeds) then fixes the fresh weft in place. [Roger]’s videos (embedded below) clearly show this mechanism in action, as well as the loom’s overall design.

A detail of an automatic loom, showing the end of the weft being pinched when the shuttle starts its run
A clamp holds the end of the weft when the shuttle starts its run

The 3D-printed shuttle is moved back and forth through the warp by a belt-driven system that grips the magnetic end of the shuttle. Rotating storage drums on each side of the machine enable the use of different thread colors for each shuttle run. Shuttles are exchanged by a robotic arm that picks them up and places them on the track; there is a clamp that grips the end of the thread when the shuttle starts its run, and a thread cutter to loosen it when the shuttle needs to be changed.

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This intricate mechanical dance is controlled by a set of Arduino Megas and Nanos. They drive all the servos, DC motors and steppers while reading out a variety of sensors and switches. The system can even detect multiple faults: the weft is checked for proper tension after each cycle, shuttles with empty bobbins are automatically discarded, while a laser keeps an eye on the warp to ensure none of the threads have broken.

The whole machine is off [Roger]its own design; aside from 3D printed and CNC machined parts, he also reused components from various pieces of discarded machinery. His ultimate purpose is to use this machine to create specialized fabrics for medical or industrial use: for example, it could use conductive threads to create fabrics with embedded sensors.

While this isn’t the first DIY automatic loom we’ve featured, it’s definitely the most advanced. Previous examples, such as this 3D printed miniature version or this neat computerized one cannot be compared [Roger]26 cm reed width and wide customization options. If you prefer to make things a little easier, you can also use a 3D printer to print certain fabrics directly.

Continue reading “Fully automatic desk-sized loom is an electromechanical marvel”

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