News Feature | April 24, 2017

Amazon Gains Patent For Textile Printing That Could Alter Order Fulfillment

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Patent covers a system of on demand apparel manufacturing.

The landscape of retail fulfillment is radically changing, and the industry must keep up or fail. Part of that change includes the adoption of new technologies that can improve the efficiency and speed of order fulfillment.  To that end, Amazon recently was awarded a patent for “a system of on demand apparel manufacturing [that] includes a textile printer, textile cutter, and a computing device” that could be used to make apparel or textile home goods, as Recode reported.

According to the patent, the system is able to batch orders according to a variety of categories, like type or delivery address, in order to improve efficiency of manufacture and order fulfillment. The patent lists inventors Rouzbeh Safavi Aminpour,  Aaron Takayanagi Barnet, Nancy Yi Liang, Adam N. Alexander, James Richard Wilson, and Javier Govea Mata. Barnet and Liang co-founded the 3-D printing startup Mixee Labs and later went to work at Amazon, Recode notes.

Amazon has aggressively moved into the apparel sector, launching its own fashion line last year.  It has engaged in a concerted initiative to boost apparel sales, growing its list of available items by 91 percent in 2016. It also recently added the “Outfit Compare feature” to the Amazon shopping app, providing consumers with access to fashion advice online, as Innovative Retail Technologies reported.

The new patent covers a computerized system that includes textile printers, cutters, and an assembly line, with cameras to capture images of garments to provide feedback for future alterations, according to Recode.

“Once various textile products are printed, cut and assembled according to the orders, they can be processed through a quality check, photographed for placement in an electronic commerce system, shipped to customers and/or stored in a materials handling facility for order fulfillment,” the patent reads. “By aggregating orders from various geographic locations and coordinating apparel assembly processes on a large scale, the embodiments provide new ways to increase efficiency in apparel manufacturing.”

While the current patent specifically mentions “fashion” design, the inventors also see its possible use in other categories as well, including footwear, bedding, curtains, or towels, made of materials including paper, plastic, leather, rubber, or other substances.