The Pentagon’s latest weapon: A $1.2 million unmanned sewing machine

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency eyes ways to produce garments with ‘zero direct labor.’

The Pentagon’s venture capital arm has dished out $1.2 million to technology developer Softwear Automation to build an unmanned sewing machine, documents reveal.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-supported experiment seeks to help the garment manufacturing industry reduce its reliance on assembly-line workers.

The funding would go into development of a “numerically controlled sewing machine” that counts threads in fabric to automatically shift garments under construction as stitches are executed by a computer program, a contract notice states. The goal is to create an industrial process of making clothes without an actual machine operator.

Softwear Automation was conceived by robotics and engineering researcher Steve Dickerson.

“Complete production facilities that produce garments with zero direct labor is the ultimate goal,” says the contract document.

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