As Indian flat knitters are increasingly upgrading their knitting capabilities, many global suppliers of the technology are supplying to India either directly or through dedicated agents. Among the international leaders in flat knitting machines are Shima Seiki (Japan), Stoll (Germany), Protti (Italy), Universal (Germany) and Steiger-Zamark (Switzerland/Italy). With price being a major consideration many Chinese manufacturers are also present in the market like Cixing, Kauo Heng, Ningbo Yuren Knitting Machine, to name a few popular ones.
The main accessories to a flat knitting machine are the knitting needles, supplied by third party companies. Among these, Groz-Beckert (Germany), Sugiura Needle (Japan) and Christoph Liebers (Germany) are well established suppliers. All of them have representatives and some also have showrooms in India.
Finest Japanese Flat Knitters from Shima Seiki
Among the variety of knitting machines offered from Shima Seiki, the “wide-gauge” Series NSSG 122SV, the latest Economy Model SSR112SV and the exclusive machine for Intarsia – Model MSIG2 with 40 Intarsia Feeder, are some of the popular machines being used by majority of flat knitter. All the three innovations are equipped with Digital Stitch Control System (DSCS), Rapid Response R2CARRIAGE System, Spring-type sinkers and Stitch presser system.
Considered one of the most significant breakthroughs in modern-day knitting, the patented DSCS monitors yarn consumption continuously and adjusts yarn feeding and tension to yield consistency throughout the fabric to within a remarkable ±1% tolerance. The Rapid Response R2CARRIAGE System achieves quicker carriage returns after each course, resulting in a significant increase in productivity. Spring-type sinkers operate full-time regardless of carriage position, and provide gentle hold-down movement, realizing significant improvement in quality and texture for complicated three-dimensional fabrics.
The yarn counts used have to match the gauge, as the space between the needles restricts the thickness of the yarn. There is no mathematical rule which would correlate the gauge of the machine with the yarn count, as a lot depends on the structure of the yarn.
The patented stitch presser system features a special motor-driven system which allows the pressers to carry out individual on/off adjustments in both knit and transfer in either course direction. These pressers are able to hold down fabric gently for improved consistency and control, contributing significantly to quality shaping. Another innovation present in the machines is the yarn cutter and gripper system consisting of two yarn grippers and one yarn cutter that work in precise coordination with each other. Since the gripper and cutter are separate units, they can be independently activated to delay cutting while holding, or perform holding alone.
“Investing in Chinese machines might be good as an entry point to this industry, but for consistent performance and long-term growth investing with leading companies like Shima Seiki is only growth strategy,” says Ashwani Behl, MD, Janaksons International – the sole suppliers of Shima Seiki in India. He adds, “Even in China, where there are over 200 local manufacturers of flat knit machines, Shima Seiki is supplying around 8000 machines every year to the industry because of the features which make it far superior to local machines which includes productivity of at least 45% more, versatility in design applications, long life of over 35 years as against a maximum of 8-10 years for a local machine, besides the backing of a company that has over 50 years of industry understanding.”
Stoll Flat Knitting machines – Made in China
The Stoll TSM-252 is the economy version of the German Stoll machine and is manufactured by a subsidiary of the company in China with the same German precision and accuracy. The flat knitting machine with double system comes in gauge ranges of 12 GG, 10 GG, 8 GG, 7 GG and 5 GG. Cost-effective variants of the same machines with single knitting system are also available, offering the same gauge range. Knit transfer, Tuck, Pointelle, Non-Dasheed Intarsia, Jacquard, Chiaroscuro narrowing and other regular knitting variants are possible with ease on the machine. The sinker system, controlled via stepping, can be adjusted as per different fabrics to reduce the effect of narrowing and widening in knitting. The machine is equipped with a touch screen LCD panel, which not only makes the machine easy to control but also displays all the relevant details of knitting available.
Supplying the machines in North India, Manjit Singh Saini of S&D Fabrics, claimed that the Chinese versions are not only cheaper but also better than the original German machine and said, “The machine would cost you 5 times less than a German Stoll and would also give optimum productivity for 10 years at least.” The Stoll flat knit is claimed to be the only machine capable of working with all the three widely used software in knitting machines, i.e. M-1, Picasa and Thank Su. Hence, there is no need to convert the designs to a single file format. The maximum speed of the machine is 1.2 metres per second and is adjustable according to the width and pattern of the knitwear, avoiding unnecessary movement and attaining greater productivity. “The clippers and nippers in the machine are controlled by 6 different motors and their operations can be programmed, enabling increased work efficiency and reduction in yarn wastage,” adds Manjit.
The Chinese Stoll would cost 5 times less than a German Stoll and would also give optimum productivity for 10 years at least. It claims to be the only machine capable of working with all the three widely used software in knitting machines, i.e. M-1, Picasa and Thank Su. Hence, there is no need to convert the designs to a single file format.
Cost-effective and durable Flat Knitters – Cixing
The GE2-52C Flat knitter has a single carriage with double cam system and comb system. The machine is equipped with an improved comb device (including a clip and a cutter), which helps the compose needle to catch or release the yarn. The proper movement of the comb with clip reduces yarn wastage and increases the production efficiency. The machine uses digital patterns for transfer, tuck, Intarsia, Jacquard, apparent shape, hidden shape and other regular shapes using digital functions. It can knit basic single or double jersey plain fabric, irregular multi-colours Jacquard, Intarsia, cable and Pointelle structure patterns. The machine is capable of doing Intarsia with 15 feeders. The SFT yarn storage device maintains yarn tension and gives fabric an even appearance, which is a must requirement of quality. The machine is available in 5 to 16 gauges with the knitting width of 45, 52 and 56 inches.
Supplying machines of the company in the Delhi-NCR region, Udayan Khanna of T Khanna & Co., is convinced that mixing and matching high-end machines with Chinese machines is a good viable option. “According to me people need to understand how to use Chinese machines in the most profitable manner. What we suggest is to take the Chinese machines with the high-end German or Japanese flat knitters, and make optimum use of the high-end specialized machines by only doing the Jacquard or Intarsia designs on them, for which they are specifically made, and do the rest of the basic panels, on the Chinese machine. This would not only improve the ROI of the whole project but also reduce the knitting costs per sweater,” he says.