Specialized Sewing And Quilting Machine Types
Chain stitch machines
Chain stitch machines are used for sewing items like jeans and other clothing.
The chain stitch is used for decoration with thick thread sizes and for high strength stitching.
Chain stitch machines have lower loopers instead of a bobbin so they do not have to periodically stop to change bobbins.
Most chain stitch machines are a flatbed, but they also come in cylinder bed models.
Most chain stitch machines look similar to a lockstitch machine unless you look closely and notice that there is a looper instead of a bobbin.
Cylinder bed machines
Cylinder bed machines and post bed machines are used when sewing shoes, handbags and leatherwork that cannot be sewn on a flatbed machine.
Cylinder bed machines come from the same manufacturers that make flatbed machines and come in many types including drop feed, walking-foot, heavy-duty and ultra heavy-duty.
Bar-tack machines look similar to a buttonhole machine and make a precision bar-tack at high speeds.
Some machines have fixturing hardware to position and hold the item being sewn in the exact location that the bar tack is required.
Most machines will automatically sew the bar-tack with the push of a single button.
Similar to the bar-tack machine is the line-tack machine, this machine makes a straight stitch tack.
Another type of machine is the shape-tack machine that is programmable and can make tacks of many shapes, heavy-duty versions of the shape-tack machine are used to secure the ends of webbing.
These machines make buttonholes at high speed and with greater precision than with a buttonhole attachment on a sewing machine.
Some machines can run at 4000 SPM or greater.
Most models have built-in knifes for cutting the buttonhole after it is sewn.
Newer electronic models have many styles of buttonholes preprogrammed and can micro-adjust every parameter of the buttonhole to suit different fabrics and thicknesses.
Blind hem machines
Blind hem machines have curved needles to sew a hem with little or no seam visibility on the right side (outer surface) of the fabric.
Cover stitch machines
These machines have multiple needles and make the coverstitch used in all types of clothing construction.
Flatbed and cylinder bed versions are available.
Coverstitch machines are used for pants cuffs, shirt cuffs, elastic band attachment, hemming of t-shirts and undergarments, sportswear, etc.
Pattern sewing and CNC machines
These machines are completely controlled by programmable computers (CNC means computer numeric control).
The item being sewn is typically inserted into some type of fixture that is mounted to a moving assembly (called an X-Y table) in the base of the machine.
Complex patterns can then be sewn under computer control. Some machines have multiple needles and built-in cutters so that the item can be sewn and cut in a single operation.
There are some types of off the shelf CNC machines, but most CNC machines are custom built or at least custom programmed for a particular application.
These machines are similar to an overlock machine and make various types of crochet stitches used mainly for decorative edge finishing of blankets, carpeting, hats, and jackets.
Very heavy machines
These machines are used for sewing large tents, book bindings and other large and thick objects.
Singer Class 7 machines are an example of vintage very heavy duty machines that are still in widespread use.
Highlead, Consew and other manufacturers make modern versions of very heavy-duty machines that will sew materials with thicknesses of over 25mm.
Heavy-Duty Walking Foot Machines
For leather, thick fabrics, or multiple layers you should consider a walking foot machine or compound feed machine.
These types of machines will handle thicker and more challenging materials but they are slower, more expensive, more complicated, and have a smaller selection of feet and accessories available.
Portable Walking Foot Sewing Machines
These machines are halfway between a home heavy-duty machine and an industrial machine.
They are heavier duty than a home heavy-duty machine and weigh more (about 35 pounds), but do not have forced oil lubrication like an industrial machine.
They do have a walking foot type of feed so they will handle much heavier materials than a home heavy-duty machine.
As for speed, they are about the same as a home heavy-duty machine at 800 SPM.
They have built-in motors with good low-speed controllability.
These models are available in the US market, in other countries the similar machines are available under other brands.
Industrial Sewing Machines: Electronic Zigzag Type
Industrial electronic zigzag machines models are available from Juki, Durkopp Adler and Brother that will sew basic zigzag stitches and decorative stitches, these models start at about $3000.
Also, these brands offer high-end electronic machines with every feature you could imagine including CNC models that sew completely under computer control, but they are very expensive.
Straight Stitch Sewing Machines
Mechanical straight stitch drop feed sewing machines are the least expensive and most common type of industrial sewing machines.
For most materials and applications a drop feed machine is preferred.
Drop feed machines are faster, less expensive, less complicated and have a larger selection of feet and accessories available than any other type of industrial machine.
Most machines of this type use high shank feet that are heavy-duty versions of the high shank feet used in home machines.
Large assortments of feet are available for these machines on eBay and through industrial dealers at very low prices.
The standard arm length (the harp space) for these machines is 12 inches (303mm). Longarm versions are available.
There are many variations available including models with double needles, large bobbins, heavy-duty models that will take large size needles, etc.
As an example, the Juki DDL-8700 comes in 3 versions the 8700 for medium weight fabrics, the 8700A for lightweight fabrics and the 8700H for heavyweight fabrics that will take up to a size 23 needle.