The industrial sewing machine is a heavy duty version of a standard home sewing machine, and it is used in the clothing and other related industries, such as upholstery sewing for furniture. One of the common uses for the industrial sewing machine is to perform the mass production sewing of pockets into garments made out of heavy canvas, such as denim for blue jeans. A typical pocket industrial machine can sew 2,000 pockets in a eight-hour production cycle.
Heavy sewing volume requires an industrial sewing machine, which is designed to sew multiple layers of tough material, such as leather, canvas, and vinyl, at one time. Some sewing machines are advertised as industrial strength, but these are in actuality ordinary home sewing machines designed to handle heavier-than-normal materials. The internal gears and motors in a standard commercial sewing machine, even an industrial strength one, are too fragile for the heavy work loads processed in a factory setting. An industrial machine comes equipped with a clutch and large servo motor.
Most sewing processes in industrial settings are assembly-line-based, meaning that a typical industrial sewing machine will be designed to perform just one function. The machines are sold and named based on the function that they serve. Typical names for industrial machine classes include pocket setter, buttonhole, and programmable pattern sewers. Programmable machines can store ten to thirty or more patterns in memory, and typically have a sewing field of 12 by 6 inches (30.48 by 15.24 centimeters).
Producers of industrial sewing machine equipment include companies in Hong Kong, Canada, and France, with a large part of their exports going to the textile industry in India. The major world exporters of textiles produced in industrial sewing as of 2006 were China, Hong Kong, and Italy. The United States ranked eighth in exports immediately below Pakistan and Thailand, and slightly above India in the same year. The products of industrial sewing made China 16 times as much profit as they did for the United States in 2006, with China's exports greater than the other top eight countries combined, and accounting for 65% of the total world market for apparel.
Many industrial sewing machine units are also sold reconditioned, as profits in the textile industry can be volatile due to short product life cycles and unpredictable demand. As labor rates in the textile industry have dropped, much of the industrial equipment already in use has been shipped from industrialized to developing nations. This continues to fuel a very high demand for apparel globally. Developing nation production rates have not been able to keep up with this demand, however, due to slower capital investment in new industrial sewing facilities.