High precision components for horizontal knitting machines supporting clothing from around the world
The parent company, Shima Fine Press’ knitting machine is a proprietary technology capable of seamlessly knitting “whole garments” of even complex onepiece shapes, holding 60% of the worldwide market share.
It has gained worldwide recognition for both its functionality and for not breaking even when used for long periods of time; Shima Fine Press provides the high-precision parts necessary for this horizontal knitting machine.
Outside the realm of horizontal knitting machines, the company continuously supports the global garment industry with blanking (FB) and ultra precise injection molding technology.
The company was founded in 1980. Not satisfied with European parts that were adopted at the time, the company aspired to make these parts in-house.
President Sadao Nishimura, transferred from Shima Seiki at age 29, said “I had zero mold and molding know-how. What I knew was that we needed to make high-precision parts and that we need high-precision machines to make them”. So he was very particular with the equipment.
The theory is, “you can't make a 1000-part machine by lining up a bunch of 100-part machines”.
According to this policy, we have collected all of the finest machines. However, as President Nishimura said, “What is most important is not just the machine, but mastery of the machine”.
“Considering the safety factor, it is common to use machines in ranges that are slightly lower than the champion data from the manufacturer's catalog. But we do things differently. We master our machines so that we can use them at the utmost limit levels defined in the manufacturer's catalog. That’s know-how”.
To ensure that the engineers are aware of this, they choose their own machines themselves.
The highest grade machines, and the ambition to master them.
This posture was probably the reason. The reason why we produced the FB mold only half a year from our establishment.
Eight years later we began injection molding, thinking “there are machines that make molds, so we can make plastic molds.”
Although we started this way, the parts we handle now are more sophisticated.
For example, the main needle plate component that is indispensable for knitting machine control is composed of a hardened material with a thickness of 1 - 2 mm and a length of 200 - 250 mm.
This part which uses thousands of pins will produce 80,000 of these per day.
We also manufacture special parts with resin.
There is a part that cuts the film of new material such as cloth and carbon fiber according to certain dimensions; place the film on this part and it will adhere to and cut it. In order to cut cleanly, we needed to place 8,100 pins in a square of about 100 mm and it took several months to produce this mold.
Some may think that because we are a subsidiary, it is easier for us to make high quality products, but it is actually the opposite. Because we are a subsidiary, the demands are more severe. For this reason, we are making things less expensively through automation. For example, it used to take two hours to polish the tip portion in the needle plate but in collaboration with specialist manufacturers, we were able to develop a breakthrough method to polish it in around 10 seconds. Also, we have been working on automation measures to process any debris stuck inside the molds.
There are endless challenges to develop devices and new technology. Recently, considering that “including post-processing, lasers are faster for most parts,” we have begun to make parts using laser processing. Also, we are bringing in a 650t class molding machine this year, and construction of large size parts is in progress.
In addition, while we have not taken any definite action, we are considering using injection molding machine developed by Sodick for aluminum.
“Even if you are productive and profi table, without attempting new challenges, you cannot grow,” says President Nishimura, who serves as a source of company growth.
* WHOLE GARMENT is a registered trademark of Shima Seiki Manufacturing, Ltd.