Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists have developed a system that can translate a wide variety of 3-D shapes into stitch-by-stitch instructions that enable a computer-controlled knitting machine to automatically produce those shapes.

Researchers in the Carnegie Mellon Textiles Lab have used the system to produce a variety of plush toys and garments. What’s more, James McCann, assistant professor in the Robotics Institute and leader of the lab, said this ability to generate knitting instructions without need of human expertise could make on-demand machine knitting possible.

McCann’s vision is to use the same machines that routinely crank out thousands of knitted hats, gloves, and other apparel to produce customized pieces one at a time or in small quantities. Gloves, for instance, might be designed to precisely fit a customer’s hands. Athletic shoe uppers, sweaters, and hats might have unique color patterns or ornamentation.

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