Flying shuttle

Flying shuttle

The flying shuttle was developed by John Kay (1704 - 1764). In 1733 he invented one of the key developments in weaving that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution. When weaving on a loom, the shuttle carries the weft yarn across the loom through the shed formed by the raised warp threads to form the fabric. When weaving was performed on a handloom, the width of cloth that could be woven was restricted by the reach of the weaver, and required the use of two hands. Two weavers were needed to operate larger looms. The flying shuttle enabled the weaver to propel the shuttle through a wider strip of cloth with a single hand, and allowed the other hand to perform the combing to compact the cloth. This speeded the process and thus increased production.

With increased speed and production, the demand for yarn rose, and thus this early invention spurred the textile industry in Great Britain. Initially, demand outstripped supply, and weavers were put into competition for the limited supply of yarn. The technology was seen as a threat because of this, and Kay's innovation led to machine wreckers attacking his property. Kay also suffered because his invention was used by others without his getting any royalties: the trials that he faced led him to leave for France, where he died without getting any lasting benefit from his invention.

The flying shuttle principle was the predominant means for weft insertion employed by powered looms until the middle of the twentieth century. Modern industrial looms, driven by the desire for greater weft insertion rates, have employed systems which carry the weft yarn across the width of the fabric from one side only, using many small light projectiles or positively driven rapiers instead of the heavier shuttle. There are now looms which use jets of air or water to carry the warp yarn across the fabric width for use with suitable yarn types delivering even greater rates of weft insertion.

The flying shuttle led to the invention of the Spinning Jenny.

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