Industrial sewing machines differ from traditional sewing machines in many ways. An industrial sewing machine is specifically built for long term, professional sewing tasks and is therefore constructed with superior durability, parts and motors. Whereas traditional sewing machines might include nylon or plastic gears, an industrial sewing machine's gears, connecting rods, housings and body are typically constructed from high-quality metals, such as cast iron or aluminum.
Types of Industrial Sewing Machines
There are four main types of industrial sewing machines. The differentiation between them is based on the design of the arm and needle post. These four types are:
- Flatbed: The most common type, these machines resemble traditional sewing machines in that the arm and needle extend to the flat base of the machine. Workers typically use this machine for sewing flat pieces of fabric together.
- Cylinder-bed: These machines feature a narrow, horizontal column as opposed to a flat base. This allows fabric to pass around and under the column. The diameter of the cylinder-bed varies from 5 cm to 16 cm. Workers employ the cylinder-bed machine for sewing cylindrical pieces such as cuffs, but it is also useful for bulky 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 ranges from 10 cm to 45 cm. Applications that make access to the sewing area difficult, such as attaching emblems, boot making and glove making utilize the post-bed machine.
- Off-the-arm: The least common group, these machines require workers to feed material along the axis of a horizontal column. The design limits the length of the seam sewn to the length of the column, but is useful for applications such as sleeve and shoulder seams.
Things to Consider When Buying an Industrial Sewing Machine
After you've determined which type of industrial sewing machine best fits your needs best, the next step is to choose how many and which type of feed mechanism you should purchase. Different industrial sewing machines offer several ways to feed the material. 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.
- 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-seemed 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, embroidery 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 you will be using. 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 stitch types should also be noted prior to making a purchase. There are several dozen distinct types of stitches, each requiring between one and seven threads. Plain stitches are the most commonly used stitches in industrial sewing and include loc, chain, overlock and coverstitch
Yet another important feature to look into 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. You'll need to ensure the size and speed of the machine you ultimately purchase will adequately meet your needs and expectations.