Levi's will start using a laser to make jeans. How it will work

Recently it was announced that Levi's was going to stop the manual processing of jeans, and instead began to use robots with lasers. They will create frayed and worn effects, and the only people involved in the process will be a designer who creates the appearance of jeans in a program similar to Photoshop, and several employees who bring blanks under the laser.




The purpose of such radical changes is to reduce the amount of chemical emissions in water and the atmosphere, reduce the cost of production and accelerate the process of creating jeans. According to Levi Strauss Chief Executive Officer Chip Berg, who led the company in 2011, the use of lasers is the future of jeans manufacturing, and soon other manufacturers will begin to switch to this technology. But how will this work, and what to do with people whose places in the factories are becoming less and less?




In the name of modern fashion, manufacturers have to “age” (and according to many - spoil) completely fresh jeans. Otherwise, the modern buyer will not buy them, considering it too dull. A simple one-color clean blank will be bought unless as a uniform for janitors or as part of a suit for workers at the factory. Therefore, each pair of jeans is treated with chemicals and manually tormented - tear, tinder, and so on. In the 90s, sandblasting was used to create a “well-worn” look. Then came the permanganate sprays and other chemicals that are extremely harmful to the lungs. And after that, the fabric had to be manually grinded - with fresh paint. All this is not the best way affects the health of employees in the enterprise.


Nobody wants to be known as "the company where hundreds of workers earn silicosis per year." Especially Levi's, positioning itself as the most old-school, kind, trashy and real. Therefore, henceforth, the main jeans manufacturer in the United States is introducing a new technology that will "age jeans without harm to workers." All labor will now be performed by lasers.




Digital technology will allow ethically creating jeans designs, almost completely replacing manual labor. It is called Project FLX (from Future-Led Execution). First, a photograph of the “necessary” jeans is taken - those whose appearance I want to replicate. Then it is illustrated in a special program. The photo shows objects showing the laser what to do here and what texture should be obtained at the output. And then the laser in 90 seconds turns any workpiece into an exact copy of the original, up to every scuff.


Take, say, authentic old worn jeans, and then with a laser “copy” their texture to new models in order to achieve the same appearance. Previously, the procedure manually took from 8 to 20 minutes. The laser allows you to reduce the process by ten or more times. Monotonous models without textures and features that are “boring” by modern standards turn into trendy youth items after one run.




The project is being handled by Bart Sites, Levi's vice president of technical innovation. Under his control is the center of Eureka Innovation labs, which creates a system for creating instant jeans design. He says that over the past 30 years in the clothing industry, almost all of the final processing had to be done manually. When creating jeans, these are 18-24 stages, during which a person encounters chemistry and abrasives, and then these same substances go into rivers and the atmosphere. Levi's has now launched the “Zero Hazardous Chemicals by 2020” program. According to Bart Sites, thanks to new technologies it is quite possible to reduce the use of chemicals in creating denim from a few thousand to a couple dozen. And from 24 stages of manual processing there will be a maximum of 3. The rest will be taken over by a robot with a laser.



The laser uses infrared radiation to “scratch” the top layer of denim at the microscopic level, creating a characteristic white “wear”, scuffs, holes and so on. The idea is not fundamentally new, many other jeans companies have been using lasers for 10-15 years. But those have a low resolution, and they can only create rough details. Eureka labs with its system makes “laser” jeans absolutely realistic, they could not be distinguished from those whose design was created by manual processing. Their lasers are able to regulate the color of the fabric, to make tears, holes and the smallest scuffs in clothes.


Now it’s enough in electronic form to create a blank for the laser, in fact, “draw” jeans, as in Photoshop. Then you can immediately send the project to all the factories, and immediately start production. Previously, six months passed from the creation of the concept (with its well-worn, torn, textured, colors, drawings, etc.) to the mass production of jeans. Now the whole process will take several weeks. This time is necessary to create a sufficient number of blanks.



Levi's says that they are going all-in with this new scheme of work, and they are going to implement it in all their enterprises in order to get rid of manual labor. This is a huge investment in thousands of cars, and almost only Levi's, with its revenue of $ 4.9 billion, can afford such a scale. By 2020, according to Bart Sites, the system will work at all the company's factories.


In the future, Levi Strauss hopes to simply supply the jeans with three basic shades - light, medium and dark. And those in place using a laser will reproduce about a thousand different design options on them. Moreover, it will be possible to watch what is selling well now, and to change the factory output on the go. Today there are not enough dark jeans with two tears on the knees, and tomorrow - light jeans with a floral pattern below the pockets. The laser doesn't care what cut it out.



On the left are jeans created with a laser. To the right is the original

A similar line is already operating in Nevada, where Levi's designers are now sending digital files, which serve as the basis for creating the final decor by robots. Further scaling to factories in Mexico and Bangladesh is expected.


Other manufacturers typically follow Levi's. The company has been one of the innovators in the market for over one hundred and thirty years. It was she who first began to use denim in clothes - only such a fabric was strong enough for workers at gold mines in California. She was also the first to patent blue pants with buttons securing pockets (in 1873, it was believed that these were the first jeans). The first zipper fly, the first jeans for women ... It can be expected that many large jeans manufacturers will also soon begin to give up manual labor. And this is less work for the poorer countries where Levi's factories are located.



On the right is the base (blank), on the left are the jeans that the laser cut from it

Levi's says its new technology will "rethink jeans." Bart Sites says that "this is a unique opportunity that comes only once in the life of a company." At the same time, if everything goes according to plan, by 2020 Levi's will fire almost a third of its employees and replace them with laser robots. People will not suffer from chemicals in the workplace, but their earning potential will be reduced.



P. S. Джинсы Levi's, как и вообще почти всю одежду и обувь, намного дешевле покупать в Америке. The same jeans in the Russian and American versions of Levi's store cost very different amounts. Compare yourself. For example, Levi's 501 Original Fit in Russia costs 6,700 rubles ($ 116), and in the States - $ 59.5 (3,400 rubles) . The difference is almost twice. Although, in our opinion, it is even easier to take such clothes on Amazon , where Levi's has its own section. There, prices generally start at $ 17.


And you can buy and bring any product from America with Pochtoy.com - for only $ 8.99 (for 0.5 kg). If you register using the link and enter the GEEKTIMES code, $ 7 is credited to the user's account.