Sewing enthusiasts of all skill levels know that the right industrial sewing machine can make all the difference in the world when it comes to producing flawless seams. One of the most crucial things that separates different types of machine is the feed mechanism. This refers to the way the needle, loopers, bobbins etc. interact to move the material along as it is sewn. The feed mechanism plays a significant role in establishing what type of application the machine is suitable for. In this blog post, we shed some light on the main industrial sewing machine feed types, how they work mechanically, and their main uses, so you can ensure you’re choosing the right equipment for your sewing needs!
How does a drop feed sewing machine work?
Drop feed is the simplest and most commonly used feed mechanism in industrial sewing machines. If the feed type isn’t specifically mentioned in the description, you can generally assume that it uses a drop feed. This mechanism comprises feed dogs (small, toothed metal plates), which are positioned beneath the presser foot to move the fabric along. When the presser foot is lowered, the feed dogs engage with the material and the needle descends to penetrate it. The teeth of the feed dog then grip the fabric and move it forward, and the needle drops again. This synchronised action creates a continuous feeding motion.
What is a drop feed sewing machine used for?
Drop feed machines are versatile and suitable for a wide range of general sewing tasks. They are simple to use and great for beginners.
What are the limitations of a drop feed sewing machine?
Sewing multiple layers can be difficult with a drop feed machine, as the feed dog moves the bottom layer forward effectively but risks leaving the top layer behind. This creates what is known as “ply shifting” and can result in puckered and uneven seams. You can get around this with a simple solution such as using pins to tack the layers in place, but if you work with multiple layers on a regular basis then it might be worth considering a different and less time-consuming option, such as a needle feed machine. Drop feed machines are also unsuitable for working with heavy fabrics such as leather.
How does a differential feed sewing machine work?
Differential feed is the feed mechanism generally used in overlock sewing machines. It employs two sets of feed dogs, one in front of the other, with the needle in the centre. Each moves at a slightly different rate, creating tension variations in the fabric and producing a flat seam. By adjusting the differential feed ratio, you can control the speed of the front and rear feed dogs independently. This additional control allows you to gather or stretch the fabric as needed, making it ideal for handling various fabric and finish types.
What is a differential feed sewing machine used for?
Differential feed machines are versatile and great for preventing stretching or puckering when working with knits and lightweight fabrics. They are commonly used for hemming applications but can also be used to intentionally create gathering or ruffles.
What are the limitations of a differential feed sewing machine?
These types of machines are less intuitive than a drop feed and it can require some practice to master the settings for different fabric types.
An example of a differential feed industrial sewing machine is a Juki MO-6814S
How does a walking foot sewing machine work?
Walking foot (sometimes known as top feed) machines feature an additional set of feed dogs which are mounted onto the presser foot itself. They move in sync with the lower feed dogs and the needle. When the presser foot is lowered, the feed dogs all work together to grip the fabric and move it forward in a synchronised manner. This feed style is especially effective for moving heavy fabrics. It also ensures that the upper and lower layers of fabric advance evenly, preventing shifting or distortion. The foot appears to “walk” over the fabric as it sews, which is where the name comes from.
What is a walking foot sewing machine used for?
These machines are ideal for sewing heavy fabric or multiple layers, as well as quilting and working with materials that otherwise tend to shift.
What are the limitations of a walking foot sewing machine?
Walking foot sewing machines aren’t suitable for working with lighter fabrics, so they can only really be used for heavyweight applications. The bulky presser feet also limit visibility somewhat, which can make it difficult to sew intricate designs.
How does a needle feed sewing machine work?
Needle feed (sometimes called compound feed) is a specialised mechanism where the needle itself plays a crucial role in advancing the fabric. As the needle rises after each stitch, it gently pulls the fabric upward with it. This unique mechanical action minimises fabric distortion and puckering, as the needle and feed dog work together to produce consistently neat seams. It also prevents ply shifting when working with multiple layers.
What is a needle feed sewing machine used for?
Needle feed machines are ideal for working with delicate, stretchy, or high-quality materials, for multiple layers and, depending on the model and setup, for working with otherwise tricky fabrics such as denim.
What are the limitations of a needle feed machine?
These machines are perfect for the job they are designed for, but aren’t great all-rounders for other applications.
An example of a needle feed industrial sewing machine is a Juki DLN-5410N
How does a unison feed sewing machine work?
A unison feed (also known as compound feed or triple feed) sewing machine functions like a combination of a walking foot and a needle feed machine. The name “unison” comes from the fact that the foot, needle and feed dogs all work in unison to feed otherwise tricky heavyweight materials evenly and consistently.
What is a unison feed sewing machine used for?
These machines are used to produce high-quality stitching for heavyweight industrial sewing applications such as automotive upholstery and sofa making. They excel in situations where consistent material movement and seam quality are critical.
What are the limitations of a unison feed sewing machine?
Although unison feed sewing machines are brilliant for sewing heavy fabrics, they aren't suitable for sewing lighter materials. They are also more complex and generally larger than standard sewing machines.
An example of a unison feed industrial sewing machine is a Juki PLC-2760-7
How does a puller feed sewing machine work?
A puller feed sewing machine is a variation on the drop feed which utilises additional serrated rollers, known as pullers or puller feet, to grip the fabric and move it forward. These rollers work in tandem with the feed dogs positioned beneath the fabric. As the rollers rotate, they grip the fabric and pull it through the machine, ensuring even feeding. Puller feed mechanisms are particularly useful when working with heavy or stubborn materials, as they provide exceptional control over fabric movement.
What is a puller feed machine used for?
Puller feed machines are oven used to sewing heavy-duty fabrics such as canvas or PVC that can be difficult to feed any other way.
What are the limitations of a unison feed sewing machine?
These machines can be noisy, are much less commonly found, and can require more regular maintenance.
Understanding the mechanical workings of these different feed mechanisms is a great way to help you find the right machine for your needs. If you still aren’t sure, our friendly team are more than happy to provide tailored advice and help recommend the right industrial sewing machine for you. Contact us directly using the email address: email@example.com and we’ll take it from there!