Watch full episodes of the Science Channel Series “How It’s Made.”
Here’s how pillows are made.
The synthetic fibre pillows come in two styles. Garnet, meaning the pillows are filled with a roll of synthetic fibre. And blown, meaning it’s filled with loose synthetic fibres.
This first machine, the pre-opener, combs the fibres with a large, steel, spiked roller. This separates them to a considerable extent, though not yet fully. The fibres exit this machine straighter and smoother. However, several are still crimped.
The pre-opener’s four outputs drop the fibres onto a conveyor belt, which takes them to the next opening machine. Along the way, nozzles spray a special solution to reduce static electricity which causes fibres to cling to each other.
To make garnet pillows, fans blow the fibres through a long duct that leads to another opening machine called the garnet hopper. It feeds the fibres onto a spiked conveyor belt, which combs them out further. This removes many, though not all of the remaining crimps.
After the garnet hopper, the fibres look like the ones on the right. Fluffier, straighter, and smoother. The fibres now travel to the next opening machine. It has several metal rollers with sharp ridges which stretch the fibres straight, removing those remaining crimps.
The fibres then enter yet another machine, passing over one of two rollers, each of which forms a flat, fluffy sheet called a web. The two webs merge as they exit the machine, forming a thicker web. Then, the next machine laps it back and forth over itself to build an even thicker web. The width of the lapping determines the width of the pillow.
Then, the machine cuts the continuous web into pieces and rolls each one into what they call a bat. The length of the piece determines the characteristics of the pillow. The longer the rolled piece, the fatter and heavier the bat, which translates into a higher and firmer pillow.
An automated machine makes the cotton or cotton-blend shell that encases the bat.Workers mount two identical rolls of fabric onto the machine’s two cradles and feed the ends through a series of tension rollers because the two sheets must be taught as they pass through the machine’s different stations.
At the first one, blades trim the fabric to the correct width for the pillow size. Standard, queen, or king. Then, a slitter runs across each sheet, cutting a series of rectangular pieces.
The machines then mates two rectangles, stitches them together on three sides to form a shell, and sews on the product information label. The machine uses an extremely strong overlock stitch.
Now it’s time to fill the shell. As the bat travels on a conveyor belt, another belt above compresses it as it enters the waiting shell, covered just beforehand, in the pillow’s plastic retail packaging.
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