Few of us in our day-to-day lives give much thought to the myriad pieces of industrial machinery responsible for creating the products we depend on to keep us fed, housed and clothed. Among the most important of these are the machines responsible for making our clothing. One important subset of machines involved with textile manufacture are those that cut the fabrics that other devices will then assemble into clothing, drapes and other cloth-goods.
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Straight Knife Machine
One of the most common machines used to cut fabric in industry is the straight knife fabric cutter. These are made up of a head mounted over a flat base with a straight blade between them. The blade reciprocates up and down, driven by a motor and drive mechanism in the head. Fabric is fed into the front of the machine where it is parted by the blade.
The prime advantage of straight knife machines is that, because of the long exposed knife edge, they can cut a very thick pile of fabric all at once. Disadvantages include the safety concern arising from the mostly-exposed cutting edge and the greater mechanical complexity (and wear on parts) of the reciprocating drive mechanism.
Round Knife Machine
Similar in design to the straight knife cutter is the round knife cutter. In this type of fabric cutting machine, the blade is circular and spins at high speed instead of oscillating. As in the straight knife machine, the fabric is pushed against the blade to cut it.
Due to the rotary drive system, round knife cutters generally are more mechanically simple. They also tend to be somewhat safer to work with, as most round knife machines have a guard similar to that found on circular saws of the sort used in construction work. The only drawback is an inability to cut as much fabric in a single pass as straight knife cutters.
Die Cutting Machine
The third fabric cutting machine common in industry is the die cutter. This machine cuts fabric in a manner very different from the straight or round knife varieties. Instead of a spinning or oscillating blade, the die cutter stamps the desired cuts into the material with a heavy press. The blade(s) on the bottom of the press, or die, are pushed down into the fabric via a hydraulic or mechanical drive. In hydraulic presses a hydraulic ram is used to provide pressure, whereas mechanical presses use an oscillating mechanical movement (typically converted from the rotational motion of an electric motor) and momentum to drive the die into the material.
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