New technologies launched at the ZSK Open House Messe 2018
ZSK held their fourth edition of the Open House Messe earlier in September.
With a record amount of attendees from over 45 different countries worldwide, ZSK celebrated the launch of a new website, new technologies and new machinery with distributors and customers throughout the two day show.
The team of mechanical, electronic and application engineers have taken a lot of pride to work on improvements, new developments and new products since the last Open House in 2016.
The range of offered machine models has been continuously growing over the last two years. The Challenger Series has been well accepted and represents today ca. 50% of the flat machines built by ZSK. The S, M, L, X, Y, Z-Series machines are continuing to be produced side by side.
In early 2018 ZSK introduced the SPRINT 7 with 18 needles and integrated servo motors. The SPRINT 7 family continues to grow with the number of models. The SPRINT 6 will be continued as ZSK’s entry level model with 12 colours.
It is our pleasure to give you an overview of the changes adapted during the last two years and what we are showing at the 2018 Open House in Krefeld.
New Colour Changer:
ZSK is presenting a new colour change mechanism for the Challenger Series which reduces the time for needle changes by up to 75%. The new colour change system is offered optional, and the aim is to introduce it into every Challenger machine by the second half of 2019.
Time of Colour Change:
The colour change process in SPRINT, RACER, and Challenger machines with MCP 35 electronics has been simplified. A new catcher motor is installed that reduces the time of the catcher process. Additionally, the starting speed after a thread cut, as well as the speed of the last stitches prior to a thread cut, have been improved. The overall time saving is around 2 seconds per process. A partial benefit can be achieved even without the new catcher motor by installing the latest T8-2 software.
Due to the use of closed loop servo drives on the RACER Series, the machines can now achieve higher speeds at longer stitch lengths. The ramp files for the different models are recalculated step by step and will be part of future T8-2 soft- ware upgrades.
HAC and EP-1.2:
A new board has been developed that allows Hot Air Cutting device HAC and EP 1.2 to be installed alternately on the same side of the head on a machine. The devices can be switched on and off by using the head selection feature in BasePac or EPCwin.
HAC Acut 450
The HAC device has been improved. The device now carries its own air compressor in each device and does not require a separate air compressor anymore.
When Tajima customers switch to ZSK or start implementing ZSK in their factory, they often want to keep their existing frames. We are offering a connection plate for tubular frames that allows the operator to install Tajima arms on ZSK machines and to continue to use their existing Tajima frames.
All RACER Series machines are equipped with MCP 35 electronics, closed loop servo drive systems and an extended field for tubular embroidery. In most models, the field has been extended by 92mm.
Quick Change System II:
In 2016 ZSK introduced a Quick Change System for the SPRINT Series. This system has been continuously improved and the newest version is now available for the RACER Series.
Pneumatic Frame Clamping:
When producing parts with low number of stitches where frames have to be exchanged continuously, ZSK is now offering a pneumatic frame clamping system. By pressing a button, the frame can be released and locked. This allows for a faster change.
Stitch Plate Insert:
ZSK has introduced a new stitch plate insert for the SPRINT and RACER Series. The tubular arm of these models does not require a cap insert anymore for the majority of hats. The new standard insert has a 0.3mm sunk centre and improves the stitch quality on filled stitch designs.
Twin Sequin Device T7
The device now carries 2mm guides as a standard feature. The device has been improved to provide more stability during the embroidery process and is therefore capable of embroidering 2mm sequins at the highest known speed.
T7 end of sequin recognition:
This optional device can be installed on T6 and T7 sequin devices. The device recognizes when a sequin roll is empty and stops the machine automatically.
T7 on 18 needles:
ZSK is capable of installing up to 3 sequin devices of the T7 sequin device on a 18 needle machine. This allows up to 6 different sequins per head.
The Roll2Basket solution has been extended by two additional products. Machines can be equipped with an optional Roll2Basket sensor that can detect design elements and ensures perfect placement of logos and lettering. The second product addition is a Roll2Basket winding station. This system allows the automatic winding of embroidered ribbons.
Shirt Collar Frame:
A typical requirement for work wear and promotional embroidery is stitching a logo on the collar of a shirt. A very time consuming task is to take the shirt out of the packaging, to embroider it, and to fold it back together. ZSK has developed a new shirt collar frame that allows embroidery of the collar without having to take the shirt apart. The system can be supported by an optional pallet that can be installed on SPRINT machines that holds the shirt in the bag while the collar is being embroidered.
ZSK now offers red bobbins. In case you use different bob- bin yarns and want to avoid a mix up of the yarns, it can make a lot of sense to use different coloured bobbins.
The casting of the tubular arm has been strengthened with additional internal material. The size of the tubular has not been increased. The strength of the tubular arm now ex- ceeds the strength of the JAFA Series tubular arm.
Extended Tubular Arms for SPRINT Series:
The standard arms of the SPRINT 6 Series allow a frame width of 469mm. The extended arms allow a width of 514mm and therefore offer sufficient space for a 12”x15” Mighty Hoop. Extended tubular arms are a standard feature of the SPRINT 7 Series.
BasePac and EPCwin Training Videos:
The ZSK YouTube Channel “ZSK Stickmaschinen” is now of- fering a number of training videos for BasePac and EPCwin. The collection of videos will continue to grow. The video col- lection includes the presentation of all main features of a BasePac Premium.
Auto Select Bobbin Changer:
ZSK offers three versions of automatic bobbin changers.The latest development is the Auto Select Bobbin Changer.
The Auto Select Bobbin Changer constantly keeps track of the bobbin position within the magazine. Perfect matching of upper and bobbin yarn is therefore possible and auto- mated.
The following applications strongly benefit from this development: matching yarn colours for upper and bobbin yarn, and matching yarn thickness for thicker and thinner yarns (i.e. for combination of thick and thin yarn in one design).
The Auto Select Bobbin Changer can be installed in any new ZSK machine running in border frame operation on F- and W-heads.
Quicktext with Head Selection:
This new feature is part of GiS BasePac Professional Version
10. The feature allows embroidery of team names (Quick- text) with an efficiency currently unknown in the industry.
The machine feature used for this is Head Selection. All ZSK flat machines (S-Z Series and Challenger Series) are always equipped with Head Selection, for RACER machines it is an option. When a machine is equipped with Head Selection, the take up lever is no longer in motion when the head is switched off.
A typical embroidery job might involve patches with a company logo and name below it. A requirement might be 3 patches per person. In this case, the system allows all 4 heads to run the same logo. Afterwards one head is automatically switched off and the 3 equal names are embroidered. Afterwards, the last head is automatically switched on to embroider one name of the next three names in the queue.
The information can be exchanged via the ring buffer between machine and the GiS system.
Efficiency is key in every operation. Reducing loading and operational times increases the profit of the business.
The newly added T8-2 feature allows loading of designs via barcode, turning designs i.e. by 180° and many other functions purely by using a barcode scanner and scanning operations.
The new functionality does not require any strokes of keys on the T8-2 apart from the green button to safely start the embroidery process. ZSK has released a detailed manual on this functionality and its capability.
See ZSK technical embroidery systems on stand N90
New machines launched at the ZSK Open House Messe 2018
ZSK have launched new machines for the technical textiles and composite industry.
The JGVA 0109 is the ideal sampling and small batch production machine for technical or high end design requirements. The machine is the smallest triple combination embroidery machine that exists. Due to its compact size of 3.44m x 1.84m it fits well into laboratories. The machine combines the standard embroidery head (F), the cording / taping / coiling head (W), and the moss / chain stitch head (K).
JGW 0200 stands for a 3.44m wide and 1.84m deep versatile sampling and small scale production machine.
This machine for technical applications is equipped with two W laying heads with a head distance of 550mm and a laying field of 550 x 600mm per head.
The machine is further equipped with a drive system that allows one head (with the second head switched off) to lay designs up to 1.100 x 600mm.
The machine can be equipped with all typical options that ZSK offers for tech- nical embroidery machines.
The specialty of the machine is the capability to lay relatively large components considering the compact size of the machine.
The new CHALLENGER models are the CYCF 2409-330D, CYCF 3606-200D, CXCF 1212-480, CYCF 1012-600D, and CYGF 1209-600.
See ZSK technical embroidery systems on stand N90
Technical embroidery for e-textiles
The missing stitch
Recently, a class of technical textiles called e-textiles has begun to emerge as a way of further functionalizing traditional fabrics. E-textiles, or the ability to embed electronics and their electrical properties into fabrics, allow for a new class of self-aware materials. These materials can have internal sensing capabilities as well as the ability to adapt themselves to various changing environments opening doors to data collection that was not previously economic or even possible.
Technical embroidery offers a host of methods to create new e-textiles and push the entire field forward. Due to embroidery’s high maneuverability, quick adaptability to new designs, and established scalability, embroidered systems are increasingly being sought after to create prototypes and solutions for this ever-growing e-textiles market.
Technical embroidery can allow traditional circuit boards to be mechanically mounted to fabrics, while automatically creating conductive textile connections them. Aspects of traditional circuit board design such as creating conductive traces can also be incorporated using technical embroidery. Sensors can be integrated exactly where they are needed in an automated process. Furthermore, due to the ever- decreasing size of electrical components, a renewed inter- est in mounting components to embroidered sequins has opened up design possibilities.
Embroidering full boards mechanically
One of the most direct uses of technical embroidery is to quickly attach and stitch traditional printed circuit boards into fabric carriers. Stitching boards directly into the structure of the textile reduces mechanical strains on the connectors while allowing the control and processing electronics to be physically closer to their supporting electronics. This can have a range of benefits such as increased signal to noise ratio, decreased mechanical fatigue based failure, and reduced need for additional connectors.
If looked at from an electronics manufacturing standpoint, fabrics offer a new host of materials that not only carry the electronics, but also provide functional advantages over traditional materials and processes.
Embroidering connections to boards
Another advantage of technical embroidery in e-textiles manufacturing is the ability to embroider electrical connects automatically to the host board using various conductive threads. This process allows for the quick connection of potentially hundreds of electrical connections from a board to their fabric-hosted sensors. By registering the board during its embroidery to the host fabric, electrical connection points on the board are also registered for stitching. This can allow for a single stitched board to merge data from many sensor types into a single output.
By using techniques such as tailored wire placement, highly conductive materials can be placed into the structure of the fabric in order to create low resistance traces that bet- ter mimic traditional circuit board function. Size AWG 10 to AWG 40 wire has been successfully laid in this process.
Additionally, wire coatings such as enamel or PVC are unaffected by the embroidery process, opening a wide variety of insulative and coating materials. Furthermore, customized wires such as multi-core and multi-filament wires can be used to run multiple signals through a single conductive pass. Up to 32 signals in a single multi-core line can be run, with the capability of going much higher.
Traditional sensors such as temperature sensors can be embroidered into a textile by embroidering their host circuit board into the textile, or by including the sensor into a fibre carrier. Embroidering additional sensor boards into the fabric is a straight forward method of quickly integrating capability and function. Embroidering sensors within a fibre carrier can allow for a more elegant and compliant solution
However, more form fitting and haptic-sensitive textile based sensors are increasingly being investigated for their inclusion into a functional fabric. By using the properties of the conductive fibres themselves such as large surface areas, variable resistivity, and geometric conformability, solutions such as textile electrodes, stretch sensors, and sweat sensors can be reliably created.
Embroidered LED sequins
Another method of functionalizing fabrics is the inclusion of embroidered LED sequins. By mounting the required electronics onto a traditional sequin carrier, LED’s can robotically be sewn into a garment in automatically during its creation. This has significant advantages over other e-textile processes as it does not require post-process soldering or additional conductive epoxies. In this way, the embroidery machine serves as a hybrid between traditional pick and place machines to select a component sequin off of a reel and a sequin machine as it stitches the component into the fabric’s structure.
Technical embroidery can additionally be applied to radio frequency engineering through the use of new and geometrically tunable antennas. As the shape of textiles in garments can vary dramatically from when the textile is being stored to when it is being worn, limitless possibilities generated by embroidering antennas of various tunable shapes exist. These designed textile antennas can have uniquely directional properties that traditional hard antennas do not have. As our world becomes increasingly wireless, textile antennas are an open and exciting area of research.
Finally, one of the more important thoughts to have when evaluating any e-textile prototype is its ability to quickly and cost effectively scale. As embroidery is a well-established textile process with many configurations for production machines, the risk to scaling is much lower than when com- pared to other less known e-textile processes. In fact, many traditional embroidery companies can even utilize their existing equipment setup to turn their machines from traditional embroidery to technical e-textiles embroidery.
Technical embroidery offers multiple solutions that can help to advance the field of e-textiles. In combination with electronics manufacturers, new boards can be designed that best take advantage of the embroidery process. Additionally, the inclusion of new functionalized conductive threads and materials can rapidly speed development time and electrical source-ability.
See ZSK technical embroidery systems on stand N90
Shine bright like a diamond
The robotic and automated placement of shiny plastic sequins onto fabric is a well known and well documented process. Integrating sequins into fabric for increased visual and design properties has been implemented for over 50 years.
However, recently new developments in electronics have re-invigorated this old technique.
By redesigning and functionalizing the sequin from ground up, new garment capabilities are being discovered that never existed before. Instead of the sequin being just a shiny piece of plastic, new developments have utilized the area and space on a sequin to serve as a host material for new electronics. In a sense, the sequin becomes a micro-circuit board. As the size of electronics decreases, it becomes easier to put more of them onto sequin-based circuit boards. These small circuits add exciting electrical and sensor possibilities to fabrics.
Currently, LED sequins have been developed that can each hold an LED and some of the corresponding electronics. Each sequin contains a 2.7 volt 20 milli-amp high Luminosity white LED with corresponding electronics, however the technology can quickly be adapted further for additional design specifications. By utilizing ZSK’s existing optimized sequin placing technology, adding sequins is fast, time efficient, and automated. LED sequins are stored on rolls that are fed into the embroidery machine. When the design calls for an LED sequin to be placed, a fresh sequin is chopped off of the spool, placed onto the fabric, and embroidered down.
With the newest generation of the LED sequins the mechanical fixation process is completed with conductive thread. Importantly, this means the additional step of mechanical fixation is no longer necessary before the electrical connections are made. By combining these two steps into a single production step with a single conductive material and single machine, the quality, repeat ability, and speed of production is dramatically increased. This further supports the increasing trend of automated e-textile production methods.
Even more excitingly, the electrical connections required to provide power to the LED sequin, can also be automatically embroidered with conductive thread. This step is critical when moving from a proto-typed solution to a scalable product. Eliminating the need for hand soldering, or application of conductive epoxies, greatly reduces the amount of labor required and risk of human error. Automation allows for the LED sequin fabric to come off the machine functioning without additional steps.
See ZSK technical embroidery systems on stand N90
A playground for everyone
Nowadays, the integration of electronics into textiles is a playground for textile, electronic and mechanical engineers as well as for people in the textile & fashion industry. However, the most prominent question asked by these developers regards how to integrate the electronics into the textile in a production efficient way. Embroidery is the answer!
Through a single embroidery process, the electronic boards can be placed on the fabric and connected with conductive threads. The connection is reliable and fully automatic. Existing electronic boards like the Adafruit Playground boards (see Piano) or the especially for embroidery developed ZSK-E-Tex-Boards (see Dashboard) can be integrated into the textile to functionalize the fabric.
The piano example shows a prototype for the integration of an Adafruit board into a textile embroidery design. The piano keys are embroidered with conductive thread (Madeira HC 40) and each piano key is connected by embroidery with the Adafruit Playground board. Once you touch the piano keys, the Adafruit board plays the corresponding tone of the music scale. This way you can use it like a small textile piano. All connections are automatically embroidered by a ZSK embroidery machine.
The conductive paths between the piano keys and the board connections are covered with a non-conductive embroidery thread to protect the conductive material against mechanical stress and to integrate even the connections into the design by using a color similar to the fabric color.
Even the USB cable, necessary for power supply, is integrated in the design by embroidery. A covering satin stitch over the USB cable integrates the cable into the design and protects the cable against unplugging. If you want to play with your own embroidered textile pianos, you can buy a piano for 175 € which includes cord, board, sensors and connections.
The Adafruit boards are electronic boards created for hobbiest and developers. Their design is especially practical for manual connections through hand sewing. Therefore, the Adafruit boards are very rigid, thick, and not optimized for an embroidered electrical connections. Furthermore, many applications require an electronic board that can control more capacitive touch sensors or motion sliders than the Adafruit boards. Furthermore, the sensors must be electrically designed in a way that they work even through foam and leather to control integrated LEDs.
Because of the mentioned limitations of the existing boards, ZSK developed its own ZSK-E-Tex-Board. This board is especially designed to be used for embroidery. With its small size of Ø 40 mm and 2 mm thickness, the integration into a fabric is easier than ever. The power supply (Mini USB) and programmer port is on a separate board which can also be attached to the fabric by embroidery. The flex data cable between these two parts can easily be covered over and hidden with standard embroidery as well. The E-Tex Board can control up to 19 LEDs depending on how many of the 14 sensors for control you have in use.
If you are interested in creating your own prototypes by using the ZSK-E- Tex-Board, you can buy this boards for 150 € at ZSK.
A sample prototype obtained with the ZSK-E-Tex-Board is used in a demonstration piece for a car dashboard with integrated LEDs.
By using the slider on the left side by sliding over it the LED 4, 5 and 6 will light up. These sensors inputs can be easily modified by the purchaser to match their own custom project requirements.
Methods and applications for biomedical signal collection
Moss embroidery has increasingly been used as a method of collecting biomedical signals from patients. Its versatility and use for eclectic signal types and bio metrics has further inspired interest in the technology. Additionally, due to its low cost, high customization, and automatic embroidered production, moss electrodes are increasingly relevant in bio metric signal collection.
Traditional electrodes utilize a conductive pad, usually copper, as the electrical receptor with a thin layer of saline gel between the pad and the skin in order to boost inter facial conductivity. Often, the perimeter of traditional electrodes includes an adhesive to help hold the electrode against the skin. While functional, this traditional method of electrode placement has significant drawbacks.
The first drawback observed in longer electrode tests, reveals that the saline gel can begin to dry thereby decreasing the conductivity over the course of the test. As the material dries, it can also cause skin irritation under the electrode. This is particularly undesirable in tests where the patient takes the equipment home for an extended period of time. Another drawback of traditional electrodes is the geometry of the wide copper pads, which can decrease the available electrode density. This is particularly important with infants and high-density multi-signal technologies like electroencephalograms. Finally, the adhesives used to secure the electrode to the skin can occasionally cause skin irritations for some skin types.
Moss embroidery techniques are derived from traditional chenille fabric techniques where tufts of thread were used to create thicker materials such as towels and piled carpet. By creating long loops of material protruding from the base material, different textures and geometric compliance can be controlled. This creates a form-fitting electrode within an additional stabilization structure.
Moss embroidery with conductive thread is particularly useful when applied as an electrode due to its high surface area. As the conductive fibres are compressed against the tissue, they spread across the surface compliantly. Conductive thread already has an extremely high surface area, however its conductivity is increased as the individual thread tufts are compressed against the skin’s surface conformingly. This creates a robust and form fitting electrode that can be incorporated into a garment or additional carrier structure.
Textile based electrodes do not require additional saline or conductive gels due to the thread’s high surface area. Furthermore, adhesives are not required as the sensor can be directly embroidered into a compressive garment that comfortably holds the sensor in the correct location. This can be particularly useful with infants.
Furthermore, the application field of moss embroidered electrodes is not limited to body signal monitoring and input. They can also be used as an output device for electro-stimulation therapy of muscles and nerves for physical theory and tissue rehabilitation.
An interview with Michael Metzler
Taken from the magazine 'Carl', an interview with Michael Metzler, Sales Director for Technical Embroidery Systems and for 30 years with heart and soul committed to ZSK STICKMASCHINEN.
During the last 3 decades at ZSK STICKMASCHINEN you have been the key person to develop the Design Software (EPCwin) department and lately the Technical Embroidery department. What is it that drives you?
I had the pleasure to be part of and to shape two generations of embroidery at ZSK. The break through to move from mechanical creation of paper cards to electronic digitizing systems and in parallel the development of the first electronic controls of an embroidery machine was an extremely interesting time. What we are seeing today in the field of Technical Embroidery is the second evolution. 10 years ago I would have never imagined in which areas we can reach with embroidery technology.
The variety of applications is fascinating. In the field of Technical Embroidery, we are using all three embroidery heads (F, W and K) for different applications. To give you an idea of the achievements and applications that our equipment can handle,
I would like to provide a few examples:
• The laying of wires on flexible materials for car seat heaters, steering wheel heating, infrared heating for the living area, heating mats, heating of shoes, jackets, gloves and diving gear, flexible heating system for laboratories, patient observation via wires in bed sheets or safety systems for safe rooms in banks. Laying of wires for RFID antennas including the precise positioning and fixing of RFID chips.
• Laying of preforms for composites. By laying and fixing of fibres like carbon or glass in direction of force (TFP – Tailored Fibre Placement) one achieves optimal usage of the fibre characteristics with almost zero waste.
• Embroidering of capacitive sensors and touch sensors that can be placed below foam and leather and can be contacted to electronic boards by using conductive threads. Placing and fixing of LED sequins.
• Embroidering of moss electrodes that provide a very good contact to the human skin and therefore present a very good solution to observe body functions and to stimulate muscles.
This field has originally been called Technical Embroidery. Today one is talking more precisely about E-Textiles, Smart Textiles, TFP, and TWP. What is unique about embroidery ma- chines that there are so many fields where the technology can be used?
Technical Embroidery Machines provide the benefit of extremely low cycle times to create prototypes. When you have the right machine and the right material, you have first results after an extremely short time that can then be further developed. This is something that you do not find in any other technical application.
When looking at textiles, there have not been any drastic innovations over many years. Textiles are products that we wear every day and are therefore extremely interesting to implement technology. Textiles are flexible and therefore technology needs to be chosen that can handle this requirement. Considering the technology itself, the accessories we offer around our equipment as well as also the relatively low cost of embroidery and laying machines makes the embroidery technology extremely interesting.
As you say, when comparing embroidery machines to other technologies, embroidery machines are rather cheap. Increases in efficiency of the embroidery technology is certainly an important topic. How do you envision efficiency increases in the future without huge increases in the speed of the machines?
When considering mass production using the embroidery technology, there are a number of ways to be cost efficient.
We offer multi head machines, where up to 11 laying heads work in parallel. We can handle wire and fibre from rolls of up to 10Kg and supply the mate- rial without tension and even with active feeding. We offer solutions that automatically switch between two medias i.e. wires and fibres or thermoplastic fibres. ZSK offers solutions for the pneumatic cutting of wires and fibres. Material can be automatically pulled through from back to front or side to side. The material can be pneumatically clamped and strechted without any human intervention. The automatic bobbin changer can change all bobbins on a machine in around 12 seconds. Considering all these options, technical embroidery has been highly optimized. At the same time, the labour requirement has been reduced.
In the field of TFP, we have developed the fast fibre laying to increase the amount of fibre laid per time period. In this mode, fibres are only fixed with a few stitches every few centimetres. This reduces the number of stitches and therefore increases the throughput. Further new developments that will increase the efficiency and amount that can be laid down per time period are under development. We expect to show interesting new developments during the JEC 2019 in Paris.
Lately ZSK STICKMASCHINEN has opened the Training and Education Centre TEC in Seattle. What is your idea behind this move?
During the last few years we have supplied large software and hardware companies as well as major sporting good suppliers, which all have their head offices around the west coast of the US. Every new customer requires a lot of training and education – the requirement is typically not only for a short time, but an ongoing requirement. The majority of the companies had so far very little interaction with textile machines for such applications. Our specialists have therefore spent a lot of their time in the US. For the continuous cooperation with these customers, the time difference of up to 9 hours is certainly a disadvantage.
In May 2018, we were able to win Dr. Christopher Anderson to join our team and to become responsible for our TEC Centre in Seattle. Topher studied at the University of Philadelphia and RWTH Aachen.
He knows our technology for several years and has gained very good experience in the field of E-Textiles and TFP during his past career.
The training centre is equipped with four technical embroidery machines and with several software training spaces.
From my perspective, we have now a very good basis to support our US customers in the field of technical embroidery.
How do you envision the future of Technical Embroidery at ZSK STICKMASCHINEN?
Technical Embroidery offers huge potential. The fact that many large companies are considering the capabilities of this technology is a good sign for us.
We have to work extremely closely with our customers to understand trends and requirements for further innovations. Only through continuous development, we will have a chance to achieve a long-term success with this technology. We have 100% support from our investor to push this development further. This is of course a very good basis for us.
Dear Mr. Metzler, thank you very much for talking about this fascinating new area for embroidery machines.