Fabric cutting can be done either by hand or with CNC machines. Most often, manufacturers choose manual fabric cutting for samples and CNC cutting for mass production.
However, there can be exceptions to this:
- Clothing manufacturers can use single-ply cutting machines for sample production or
- They can rely on workers to cut for mass production manually.
It’s all a matter of budget and/or manufacturing volume basically. And of course, when we say by hand, we actually mean with special cutting machines that have no autonomy and that rely on human hand 100%.
Fabric Cutting at FUSH˚
At our two clothing factories, we cut samples by hand. For bulk production that includes more plies, we use automatic fabric cutters. Being that we are custom
clothing manufacturers, this workflow is perfect for us. That’s because custom manufacturing implies a lot of sample production.
Manual Fabric Cutting
As we make a lot of samples on a daily basis, we do a lot of manual cutting too. In order to do it better, we use a band-knife machine. And to use it safely, our cutting room staff uses the metallic mesh glove shown in the picture below.
The three reasons samples are made on a band-knife and not on a CNC cutter:
- No interference with mass production and therefore no interference with deadlines
- It saves energy (CNC cutters use up more electricity than band-knife cutters)
- It’s faster (to set up an automatic fabric cutter alone takes as long as to cut the samples manually)
Automatic Fabric Cutting
Once the samples are made and approved by the client and the mass production quota is arranged (our minimums are 150 pcs/design), automatic cutters hit the stage. They handle precise cutting in bulk and calculate the best fabric usage ratio. We usually use between 85% and 95% of fabrics per cutting project. The 5-15 per cent of textile scraps we give to a company that makes boxing bags. As a result, we manage to create zero textile waste.
One more fun fact – our CNC cutters are capable of cutting through 8-12 cm of fabric.
Why Do Some Companies Always Cut Fabrics Manually?
The answer is because they’re severely underpaid by their clients. Sadly, there are many clothing factories around the world that can’t afford to buy cutting machines for this exact reason. That is often why some of your fast fashion t-shirts become impossible to fold properly after a few washes.
Another reason is that they need to cut way too many layers at a time, which is too much even for the most advanced CNC cutters. Whatever the case, cutting fabrics this way always leads to some margin of error which results in the clothing of lower quality.
Automatic Fabric Cutters vs Manual Fabric Cutting
Automatic fabric cutters’ main advantages:
They fasten the fabric with a vacuum. This means there’s absolutely no wiggle room for the material and no room for error. This is ideal for mass production. It is also ideal for thicker and heavier fabrics like brushed fleece that is often used for streetwear manufacturing.
They use lasers for maximum precision and work faster than the fastest human counterpart.
Main advantages of manual cutting with a band-knife machine:
- Perfect for low quantities and single-ply work
- Zero preparation time, all you need to do is turn it on to start a cuttin’
Other Fabric Cutting Methods
The following two machines are used in extreme cases – it’s either extreme cost-cutting or extremely high volumes of product. Alternatively, manufacturers can use the straight-knife fabric cutting machine that you can see below to cut fabrics for samples.
Straight-Knife Cutting Machine – Cuts Fabrics and Costs
King of Mass Production – Automatic Cutting Line for Continuous Fabric
This machine is perfect for clothing manufacturers that make huge quantities of clothing. It feeds tubes of fabric into a cutting area that’s equipped with something called a cutting die. A cutting die is basically an arrangement of sharp knives in the shape of a garment that presses itself into the fabric.
Some of these machines are capable of making almost 5000 pieces in an hour. We still don’t use them because we’re nowhere near the production quota necessary to warrant the investment.
There you have it, you read about four different machines for four different uses when it comes to fabric cutting. For those of you thinking about working with a clothing manufacturer, now you know more about what comes into the price of manufacturing.
To sum it up once more:
- For manufacturers that handle huge quantities, automatic cutting lines are the answer
- For factories that handle reasonably high quantities, CNC cutting machines are the way to go
- For garment makers that make a lot of samples, band-knife machines are a lifeline
- For manufacturers that must cut costs everywhere, straight-knife cutting machines are pretty much the only option
Thanks for reading this far. Now that you’re more informed, we encourage you to write us an email and let us know how we can work together. The form below is the perfect place to start. If you would like to enquire about our minimums, our usual MOQ is 150 pieces/design or colour in any size.