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The History of Shima Seiki

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                                                                   The History of Shima Seiki flat knitting machine

1868-1912 : Meiji Era

The history of glove manufacturing in Japan dates back to the Meiji Era (1868-1912), with the production of military gloves. Production started with narrow-width knitting machines imported from Switzerland by Dubied.

The method applied was finger removal-type knitting. The name “finger removal” is derived from its operation. Each finger from thumb to third finger would be knitted and removed from the knitting needles one finger at a time. Then, after knitting the little finger, each finger and the thumb were then returned to the needles in sequential order.

This was a complicated process and even skilled laborers could barely produce 5 or 6 dozen pairs daily.

1932 : The Ishikawa-Type Glove Knitting Machine

The Ishikawa-Type Glove Knitting Machine finger removal-free mechanism made it possible to knit all five fingers continuously. While knitting from fingertips to wrist, a narrowing of stitches was required to shape the glove to fit a person’s wrist portion.

This was time consuming and labor intensive. As this type of glove had no elasticity and was difficult to remove, industrial accidents were common. Workers who had their gloves caught in machinery would inevitably cause injury to their hands.

1954 : Rib Knitting Machine 1954 (Mori Seiki)

In 1954 Dr. Shima created the ‘elastic yarn insertion device’ at age 17. By inserting elastic yarn at the wrist, gloves could then be produced without the need or for narrowing, as well as offering a better fit.

Rib structure is used on gloves for the wrist portion. This machine specialised in knitting this rib portion, producing one long elastic rib (double-jersey) fabric with draw yarn inserted at intervals to separate into equal pieces. Linking the glove body and the rib portion together in tubular fashion completes the glove.

Neither the Finger Removal-Type Knitting Machine nor the Five Finger Continuous Glove Knitting Machines could provide elasticity at the wrist, but with the rib knitting machine better fitting gloves could then be manufactured.

1960: Semi-automatic Motor Device

The semi-automatic motor device for a glove-knitting machine was manufactured and sold to market at the time when Shima Seiki started business.

As the five-finger continuous glove-knitting machine at the time had to be operated while counting the number of stitches of each finger and body, one person could barely operate one machine at a time. By connecting a motorised elastic yarn insertion device to the five-finger continuous glove-knitting machine, motorisation allowed a single operator to oversee 3 machines. The semi-automatic device offered efficiency while reducing human labor, and significantly improved productivity.

1963 : Beginning of Development of Fully Automatic Glove-Knitting Machine

The dream of Masahiro Shima (current president of Shima Seki) was to develop a machine that could knit gloves automatically. He invested all his profits from manufacturing manually operated glove knitting machines as well as his income from patent royalties to this development.

This prototype machine was the world’s first automated seamless glove knitting machine with rounded fingertips made possible with sinker knitting developed in only a year and a half since the company’s founding. However the precision afforded by manufacturing equipment of the time could not keep up with the invention and the product quality suffered causing the company to fall into a management crisis by the end of the year. Just as it was going into bankruptcy, charitable contributions saved the company. Shima then worked without sleep for a full week, and finally completed the fully automatic glove-knitting machine.

1964: Continued development of the Fully Automatic Seamless Glove Knitting Machine

Having realised in its effort to develop the world’s first fully automatic seamless glove knitting machine, that such a machine was before its time, Shima Seiki proceeded to take smaller steps in achieving its goal.

Earlier machines used weights to pull down the gloves while they were being knitted. Later machines produced gloves with the new sinker knit system had superior stretch qualities and offered a much better fit and comfort.

Gloves made on the automatic glove machine featured square fingertips that required stitching, but productivity was vastly improved, knitting a single glove in 2 minutes 15 seconds, or at a rate of 54 minutes per dozen pair. The machine was also user friendly, allowing a single operator to manager 30 machines at a time.

1966 : Tights-Knitting Machine

In the wake of the popularity of the glove-knitting machine Shima developed a tights-knitting machine to consider the possibility of expanding its product line to a different field.

A prototype was made based on the idea of reducing the number of fingers on a glove machine to two, and making those two fingers very long. Technology to produce round fingertips on the automatic glove-knitting machine was used to knit seamless toe and heel portions of tights three-dimensionality. However, the eventual introduction of the collar knitting machine-halted development of the tights knitting machine and it nearly evolved past the prototype see production.

1967: Fully Automated Collar Knitting Machine

The world’s first fully automated collar knitting machine succeeded in reducing the time taken to knit a collar that was a challenge for the industry. At the ITMA exhibition in Switzerland, the FAC was highly acclaimed for its quick speed, by knitting a collar in only 5 minutes while other collar machines required 12 minutes.

Key points for its success were downsizing of the carriage, shortened distance between carriage returns, and the combining of original needles and cams, which allowed simultaneous knit and transfer. It was a momentous occasion, as it was the first step taken by Shima Seiki as a flat knitting machine manufacturer.

1969: Fully Automatic Semi-Full Fashion Knitting Machine with Belt Drive

SF was the world’s first fully automatic semi-full-fashion knitting machine with a belt-drive. Carriages of past machines used chains that moved in only one direction, but the use of a belt allowed the carriage to stop and return freely. This allowed SF to work about five items more efficiently than chain-type machines.

It also featured a groundbreaking color scheme, where the main body was neither blue nor grey – the current trend in industrial machines at the time – but bright beige. The bright color allowed oil stains to be spotted more easily and that would prompt users to clean the machines more often, which would allow the machines to run better.

This innovative reversal of conventional wisdom was widely accepted by customers and the SF series became a best seller. Production of this series continues to this day.

1970 : Completed Fully Automatic Seamless Glove Machine

Masahiro Shima’s next challenge was to eliminate the need for hand stitching the fingertips and between the fingers. The development of the new sinker knit method resulted in round, seamless fingertips, and a softer texture. It was the moment Shima’s long cherished dream of a fully automatic seamless glove machine came true.

Knitting time was shortened as SFG could produce a glove in 2 minutes or 48 minutes per dozen pair, resulting in a quicker response and a reduction in cost. Furthermore, gloves with round fingertips maintained tactile sensitivity for the wearer, contributing to increased productivity and safety in the workplace.

The SFG series has since evolved from this very first model to today’s computer controlled models, and specialized models which produces ultra fine gauge gloves for precision work, as well as 5 toe socks.

1975 : SJG Developed

The SJG fully automated jacquard pattern glove knitting machine was developed to produce revolutionary fashion gloves that featured thumbs that were offset toward the palm of the hand. This front-offset allowed the glove to conform better to the actual shape of the hands. The prototype SJG was displayed at the Leipzig exhibition held in Germany. It was an immediate sensation.

Prior to the SJG knitting machine, the fashion glove was done in two pieces where the thumb was knitted separately and sewn to the palm afterward.

As this method was time-consuming and its automation was considered difficult the Japanese invention was praised for its ingenuity. SJG was used not only for knitting jacquard patterns but the programming and jacquard could also be modified so it could knit mittens and socks as well.

1976:   Fully Automated Semi-Full Fashion Flat Knitting Machine

ST10F was a fully automated semi – full-fashion flat knitting machine with stitch transfer capability. This model was capable of producing structure patterns such as cable stitches, and with its introduction to the market, sweaters with cable stitch became very popular.

Despite its compact size and chain-driven mechanisms, ST10F made it easy to perform stitch transfers, widening and patterns such as moss stitch. Exiting chain drive flat knitting machines of the time were unable to change knitting width, but ST10F could make the adjustment in three stages, overturning common perception of the chain-drive knitting machine.

1978: SNC – First Shima Seiki Computerized Flat Knitting Machine

SNC was the first computerised flat knitting machine developed by Shima Seiki, and its development marked the dawn of a new age in applying electronics to knitting.

With SNG it was no longer necessary to replace needles and jacks according to the knit pattern, making possible multiple-variety small-lot production. Replacing needles took over half a day to accomplish, and even then operation could not begin until the oil covered machines were cleaned. Digital control simplified operation and its reputation for  “double the functionality: half the price” made SNC very popular.

1978: TMS – Paper-tape making system for Computerized Flat Knitting Machines

TMS is a paper-tape making system for computerized flat knitting machines. The paper-tape took the place of the punch card, which recorded knit pattern data by producing holes in a specific arrangement onto a thick card. As opposed to the punch-car.

TMS could create data quickly by linking it to a scanner. With this development significant savings in labor was achieved in the process of pattern creation.

1981: SDS-1000 : Shima Seiki’s first Computerized Graphics Product

This is a circuit board from Shima Seiki’s first computer graphics product, the SDS-1000. Focusing attention on the fact that offset printing cold be expressed in three primary colours, the same concept was applied to the three basic knitting machine functions of knit, tuck and miss.

Three primary colours of light on the computer monitor represented these. Without this circuit board (obtained from NASA) Shima Seiki’s computer graphics products may have never been launched. Because SDS-1000 was capable of displaying 256 colours (currently the number of display colours is 16,770, 000 Colours), it achieved great patterning potential. Knitting machine control programming via Knit CAD was inspired by this technology.

1989: Second Generation Computerized Flat Knitting Machine

The second–generation computerised flat knitting machine SES122-S, is currently an industry standard in knitting factories worldwide. With a belt-driven compact, lightweight carriage, multiple-variety, small-lot production is achieved.

It features DSCS and a full-sinker system, permitting various patterning options a complete shaping.

The stitch presser works together with the sinker system to reliably hold down loops, making it even easier to perform shaping and production of integral garments.

1995:  Introduction of the SWG Series

The world’s first computerized WHOLEGARMENT®  knitting machine is presented at the 12th ITMA exhibition in Milano, Italy

1999: Expansion of WHOLEGARMENT®  Series.

At the 13th ITMA Exhibition in Paris the complete range of WHOLEGARMENT®  knitting machines is exhibited. This included the SWG-VSWG-X and SWG-FIRST WHOLEGARMENT®  knitting machines.

2004: New gauges in WHOLEGARMENT® 

New gauge WHOLEGARMENT®  machines are introduced including the SWG-X 8 gauge and 15 gauge models as well as the SWG021.

2007: Development of APEX System

Shima Seiki develops the SDS-ONE APEX system. This system is able to simulate the WHOLEGARMENT®  designs in 3D.

2008: MACH Series

The MACH2X  and MACH2S WHOLEGAREMENT®  knitting machines are developed with double the productivity of previous WHOLEGARMENT®  machines.

The MACH2X has four needle beds and a slide needle that allows all needle WHOLEGARMENT®  production. It is available in ultrafine gauges and is designed to be high speed for increased productivity.

The MACH2S is also capable of all needle WHOLEGARMENT® knitting and is designed for increased speed and higher productivity. The MACH2S is available in gauges ranging from 8 to 16.  Gaugeless knitting is also possible on this machine allowing a range of gauges to be knitted into the one garment.

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