Our dye robot in the Archive

January 27th, 2021

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Well not really a robot but a controller for the dye vessel but look at that face!

The dyeing process is similar to cooking; you need both a list of ingredients in various quantities (ie wool, dyestuffs and chemicals) and you need to follow a set method. Once the initial ingredients are in the dye vessel they need heating up and cooling down. The final temperature will vary and the length of time both to change and hold the temperature will also vary. For example the recipe might be as follows:

Place the wool and mordant in the dye vessel, take 20 mins to heat to 95°C, hold at 95°C for 10 mins, cool to 70°C, add the dyestuff, heat to 95°C, hold at 95°C for 60 mins, cool to 70°C, take a test sample to check the shade, if on shade, cool to 50°C, drop the dye liquor, rinse for 30mins.

The controller partially automates all the cooling and heating actions. This is labour saving and also ensures each dyeing is repeatable.

At the heart of the controller is a time clock with a shaped card which rotates with the clock. The edge of the card presses against a feeler which in turn activates a steam valve and thus the heating. There are also alarms to indicate to the dyeing operative that an action (eg to take a sample) is required.

The shaped cards were cut out by the head dyer and handed to the dyeing operative with each job. There were cards for different dye types (eg acid dye, chrome dye) and other processes (eg stripping colour, bleaching)

This controller is very simple.  Later they were computerised and actively monitor the temperature, flow rates and pressures in the dye vessel. They operated via computer activated solenoid valves that opened or closed compressed air lines.  That in turn actuated the various values on the dye vessel.

Thanks to William Gaunt for filling me in on the real reason the ‘robot’ is part of the collection here at Sunny Bank Mills Archive.

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Arts & Culture General Sunny Bank Mills Archive