Flexible Weaving – Continuous Innovation through Collaboration

Optima 3D is a composite engineer and machine manufacturing company, experts in the design and production of cutting-edge digital technology and weaving machines for composite applications.  

Optima 3D’s weaving technology is powered by a sophisticated software programme that creates a digital platform for the control of cutting-edge servo drive systems. In turn, this digital platform enables communication with external production analysis systems, ensuring the repeatability of weave pattern & machine setting data, including remote online access for service and software upgrading. Put simply, Optima 3D’s technology guarantees a level of accuracy, consistency and waste minimisation otherwise made impossible by traditional weaving methods. 

In collaboration with Future Fashion Factory, Optima 3D’s breakthrough technology has been built upon further, in a collaborative project that has delivered a working robotic demonstrator which will further expand the flexibility of Optima’s 3D weaving machine.  

Working with and a team of experts at the University of Leeds led by Dr Lindsey Waterton Taylor, Optima 3D was able to develop new technologies that adapt-modify existing weaving principles, motions, and mechanisms of conventional weaving methods in order to produce a working demonstrator for flexible weaving. This has resulted in the development of a robotic prototype of a combined digital-design-engineering system for 3D weaving of textile products.  

About the Project Leads 

The Optima 3D and University of Leeds partnership is a long-standing one, developing over several years through a wealth of shared experiences and knowledge. This partnership has only served to buoy the innovative technologies that have resulted from this Flexible Weaving Project.  Stephen Cooper, MD Optima 3D Ltd mechanical engineer with a diverse background in the weaving and composites industry and Robert Alexander Bemg engineering lead, worked alongside Dr. Lindsey Waterton Taylor, academic lead at the 3D Weaving Innovation Centre, supported by postgraduate researcher, Sylwia Orynek, to deliver a working robotic demonstrator for a fully flexible weaving machine. 

Working with Future Fashion Factory 

Conventional weaving technology, standard in UK weaving mills, produces traditional single-to-simple compound structures. These structures carry inherent limitations; carrying a fixed warp density or resulting in take-up during weaving. With a combined digital-design-engineering-system, the robotic prototype for flexible weaving has allowed multifarious woven textile products, creating a route to seam free products. 

By adapting and modifying weaving principles, mechanisms, and motors informed by previous and current research, the collaborative team has been able to develop a robotic arm for a flexible weaving machine.  

As part of the project, the engineering of a working demonstrator has been supported by an interactive ‘how it works’ digital communications toolkit, which includes a concept visualisation tool for pre- and post- weaving.  

Results of the Project 

It has been through this engineered robotic arm, supported by digital design and conceptual systems, that the production of 3D woven forms has been achieved in a way that enables the diversification of existing woven product lines with consideration to sustainable manufacturing and future proofing customisation for a 3D/4D revolution. Specifically, this could include the manufacturing of a broad range of seamless 3D woven products, suited to the apparel industry. Namely, within the capabilities of 3D weaving, it could see the ability to increase warp ends, the elimination of seams, and more complex on-loom ‘folding.’ Ultimately, the project has enabled fully integrated on-loom production of 3D-woven pieces, opening up creative and commercial possibilities outside the constraints of conventional weaving technologies.