Pantyhose — the culmination of centuries of craftsmanship, science, and technology. They rival the VERSABALL™ in end-effector technology, made photo filters before Instagram, and are manufactured by bad-ass machines. When I saw the How It’s Made episode for pantyhose (which is on Netflix Instant, btw), I immediately bought some and hung them on my inspiration wall. Now, when I want to be reminded of the marvels of automation technology and the industrial revolution, I pull ‘em on and get to work.

In the middle of the century, pantyhose were a revolutionary fusion of stockings and panties. Several folks [oddly all of them men] are credited for the ‘invention’ of the pantyhose in the 1950s, and IP disputes were numerous, most of which involved Ernest G Rice’s patent, filed in 1956, for a “Combination stockings and panty.” IP squabbles aside, the pantyhose didn’t reach the masses until manufacturing methods improved in the 1960s, and by 1970, pantyhose outsold their rival, the stocking. So it remains today, but, remember, this is all thanks to the bad-ass machines.

YouTube video

Thank goodness the section from How It’s Made is on YouTube. Let’s go through some highlights:

  1. A ridiculous knitting machine makes a huge tangle of little strands that somehow turns into a tube. 0:41
  2. Robots squeeze tubes together, cut, and sew stuff. 1:15
  3. The pantyhose is turned inside-out by suction. Suction is amazing. More stitching. 2:05
  4. More suction to turn it back inside-in. This part is rad. 2:44
  5. Ready for the crotch gusset, use more suction. 3:04
  6. Then post-processing: washing, dye, softening…boring.
  7. Inspection is also amazing. Uses anti-gravity machine. 3:59
  8. Some other stuff happens, and then they get folded by falling through a trap door. 4:38

The next time you need some inspiration, think about the manufacturing story behind some of the most commonplace things we see every day. Then take it up a notch and ask yourself — can I put that on a dog?



Pictures from DIYTrade and Laughing Squid.


A mechanical engineer with a soft spot for pretty things -- David designs products at OpenFab PDX. In addition to client work, David likes to 3D print violins, make toys for his toddler, and obsessively learn new things.