By  on May 19, 1994

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The latest hosiery-producing technology, featuring equipment with higher speeds, automation, electronics and computerization, was on display at the 1994 International Hosiery Exposition at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart here May 1-4.

One machine that grabbed considerable attention from sock manufacturers was a single-cylinder, sock-knitting machine shown by Conti Florentia, an Italian manufacturer. The machine featured automatic toe closing, a function long desired by sock makers.

"Automatic toe closing has always been a dream in the industry, and ultimately those things get solved," said Bob Jackman, president of Neuville Industries.

"The history of automatic toe closure on a sock machine is a long and eventful one," John Millington, consultant, John Millington Associates of England, said during the International Hosiery Conference, which preceded the IHE. He said the development "may finally break the barriers erected by buyer rejection caused by unacceptable quality and/or undue complication of the knitting machine."

Millington told DNR that the machine exhibited by Conti Florentia would most likely be the main technological development of this year's exhibition "because it produces a whole garment on the machine for the first time ."

Nicola Bartoli, president of Conti Florentia, said, "The machine knits a sock completely, so that you go from the knitting room to the boarding room, and directly to the package. You save labor, yarn, and capital investments. This method will eventually be applied to all the sock machines in the world." He pointed out that the machine is already knitting another sock while the toe is being closed on the first.

Bruno L. Caffarena, technical director, Tejidos Caffarena SA, Chile, who was very interested in automatic toe closing, said it will revolutionize the industry.

Max R. Turner, technical director of John Brown Hosiery, Australia, was also interested in the new development. "I think everybody agrees that the Conti toe-closing machine is a revolutionary idea, or they hope so. We still do a lot of hand linking with our socks."

Terry Naigle, project technician of Great American Knitting Mills in Bally, Pa., agreed that the toe closer is very interesting. "Of course, it's very slow," he said. "It looks like it needs a lot of time to be developed, but it's a neat idea."Conti Florentia also showed its latest versions of fully electronic drumless hosiery machines. The Giannina 256 for sports and leisure socks offers unlimited patterning with a potential for 18 colors.

Nagata Seiki showed two new machines: D-210E, a double-cylinder, computer-controlled, drumless, 2-feed, sock-knitting machine; and K-260, a 2-feed, single-cylinder, fully electronic-controlled sock knitter.

"The American market requires that the machines be totally electronic," said Steve Murray, sales manager for the Japanese manufacturer. "We're getting a lot of interest in our machines, but we still have a problem with the relationship between the dollar and the yen."

Detexomat displayed some of the latest automation technology for the sheer pantyhose trade. The Detexomat LineLoader needs only one "unskilled" operator to handle two line closers with fully automated linkage to toe closing and to the Autogusset. The machines can operate as standalone units or be integrated into a complete line.

"We say 'unskilled' operator because they do not have to worry about positioning the top or the crotch -- the double positioner will do that for them," explained Brian Kivett, a company spokesman.

Paramount Crawford showed the latest fully computerized models of its Concept sock-knitting machines -- model 4CJ4, 4-inch diameter, 4-feed, drumless with jacquard patterning; and model 5RJ4, 5-inch, 4-feed, drumless, with jacquard patterning -- for high-speed production of terry and flat knit socks.

The company also showed its Super Thermosetter automatic hosiery boarding machine using a super-heated steam process, and its Para-Board automatic hosiery boarding machine for high-speed drying and finishing of both natural and synthetic fiber socks.

Matec of Italy exhibited its new Silver 2 double-cylinder knitting machine with full electronic control. "It's being shown for the first time," said Mario Tinervia, technical supervisor. "It's drumless and completely electronic. That's the direction the market is going."

Sangiacomo's fully electronic single-cylinder sock machines were shown by the Artex Group, which represents the Italian manufacturer in the U.S. Sangiacomo has also entered the ladies' hosiery market with single-cylinder machines.

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