A patent application for an “on-demand apparel manufacturing” system, approved by the US Patent Office this week, has revealed the e-commerce giant plans to become a major player in the clothing industry.
The patent, which Amazon first applied for in 2015, describes a hi-tech system which would quickly produce clothing — and potentially other products such as footwear and accessories — only after an order is placed.
The system includes a textile printer, textile cutter and a computing device.
“Using the panels cut out from the textile sheets, the computing environment generates instructions for the assembly of the textile products defined in the orders and coordinates an efficient assembly process for the products,” the patent reads.
“According to aspects of the embodiment, the computing environment generates and provides assembly instructions to a textile assembly production line. Based on the assembly instructions, the textile assembly production line directs the panels to various sewing stations, for example, for assembly.
“Once various textile products are printed, cut, and assembled according to the orders, they can be processed through a quality check, photographed for placement in an electronic commerce system, shipped to customers, and/or stored in a materials handling facility for order fulfilment.”
In the 29-page document, the inventors write that the “apparel manufacturing industry relies upon various resources, processes, and equipment to produce finished garments, accessories, footwear, etc.”, with the process to manufacture a garment generally including “garment design, fabric production and/or printing, and panel cutting and sewing”.
“Many aspects of apparel manufacturing processes are relatively time-consuming and require the co-ordination of many different geographically dislocated suppliers, vendors, manufacturers, and retailers,” they write.
“By aggregating orders from various geographic locations and co-ordinating apparel assembly processes on a large scale, the embodiments provide new ways to increase efficiency in apparel manufacturing.”
The patent notes that the system it describes can be “applied to the manufacture of a wide array of products, including clothing or fabric products, accessories (e.g., scarfs, gloves, hats, bags, belts, etc.), footwear, bedding, curtains, towels, etc., in a wide variety of materials, including but not limited to paper, plastic, leather, rubber, and other materials”.