Since I am in the Detroit area the main customers of this dealer are automotive, and marine related. For automotive the machines are used for many purposes from interiors, seats and air bags. For marine application, sails, boat covers, seats, etc. They also do work for the military, and for bullet proof vests. They do sell to the apparel and home decor industry though automotive is their main niche. They sell a fair number of machine to smaller users (like me), who purchase 1-10 machines. My husband went with me and was a huge help, since he is in basically the same industry, ie selling machines to automotive and various industrial application, he was very suited to the conversations.
We spent about 2 hours with our salesperson, (actually he does a lot more then that) we felt we had his undivided attention. We met in a conference room and discussed the basics of the machine along with the features. I took a fair number of samples of my work in various stages of construction for him to view and help analyze which machine would best do the job.
I am closing in on the DDL9000B, as blogged about here though he thought for some of what I brought him a "needle feed" machine would be better. A needle feed machine means the needle will feed the top fabric in tandem with the bottom fabric, or with the feed dogs. This helps eliminated or reduce uneven feed of layers. My impression of this is it sort of acts as a walking foot on a home machine - though don't use that term when discussing industrial machines as "walking foot machines" are VERY different machine then a straight stitch machine.
In the end, he said the 9000B will handle it but I will need to manage the layers, I explained I do this now with a much "less" of a machine. The application where he felt this would be a problem, is really one component of my construction. I feel that most of my needs are more then satisfied with this machine and working around that one technique with a better machine then I have now will not be a problem. I will add the "needle machine" is over 1500.00 more then the machine I am leaning towards getting.
Then we got to go out to the warehouse/work spaces. This was a pretty impressive and much larger warehouse then I would have imagined. This is where they receive machines, assemble and retro fit machines before run off for customers and final delivery. My machine and table will come in about 20 pieces with parts coming from various suppliers.
We spent about 45 minutes in the warehouse touring the machines, most were HUGE machines, many were prototypes or prototype in design and process. They also had machines being retro fitted for airbag applications, these were beasts, very impressive and works of art type machines.
We were able to look at older models that would be similar to what I will be receiving, both with clutch motors - very loud when idle, and servo motors - very quiet you don't know they are on when idle. My machine has a built in servo motor, that is the next generation and a step up from the prior servo motors which are installed below the table, mine will be in the machine.
My husband all interested in what is down below, this model had a circuit breaker below, because it had fabric trimmer, vacuum, needle cooling, and a few others that needed their own power source - um, my machine won't have any of this, but DH was curious
I will admit I blanked out during the guy talk about motors, belts, breakers, horsepower, which was GREAT to have DH along. The topic that DOES get my attention is the oil, my model will have the option to have a "dry head" which means no oiling needed, or the "minute" oil which is the standard. My thoughts are I want no oil, managing oil, possible oil stains and an oil pan all these make me want to run a mile. The salesman and my husband sort of agreed the oil will be a non issue, I am less convinced. When he lifted the machine and there was a pan, about 3 inches wide by 8 inches long with drippy oil, I cringed. He did comfort me and said this is older and very different then my machine would be, still makes me nervous. I would have non staining oil, and only have to oil 2-3 times a year at most. I would occasionally have to clean the oil pan and keep it free from threads and debris, sound unappealing, I think so too. He said the "dry head" is a 75.00 - 100.00 upgrade - sounds good to me.
We walked around and to the repair area, where all repairs are done, I will be able to have it serviced here, warranty work as well. The machine is only warranted for 90 days, he said any warranty issues are usually found at sew-off prior to pick up. We were a tad less then pleased with this but as he said, pretty much all machine damage breakdown is user created, actual part failures are virtually non existent with the Juki machines.
He talked a fair amount about Juki as a company and how they are copied pretty much all the time, down to labels, stickers numbering schematics. He pointed out a a few identifying marks to ensure Juki machines, they have employed to cut down on look a-likes. My machine will be made in China with Japanese parts and Japanese quality inspectors and controls.
I will get several new options for me which included the ability to program stitches, tensions, needle up, presser foot up/down, auto lock-stitching/back-stitching, thread trimmer.
I will be able to use all my existing threads, I took for his review, as well as mono-filament thread, both were a relief as I can take my current stock and use it going forward.
I will need industrial needles, and will be getting 200 to start, they are priced at 100 for 18.00, so .18 cents per needle, a little less then I am using now, but I will not be able to go off to Joannes for needles.
We discussed safety features, I will have a finger guard, he said most people remove them, I will keep it for a while, maybe a long while.
The machine does not have a built in light, it will have a flex arm light behind that I can point where needed, I don't think this will impact sewing. He said, possibly next year they will add a LCD light to this model, I will NOT be able to have that added later.
Bobbin winding will be more work then I am used to, I will have to lift the machine head, which is on hinges and change bobbins, he said you can access it from under the table, but most do it by lifting head. Oddly, bobbins are the same size, seems funny to me all the advances in sewing and they all have the same size bobbins. A neat feature, not sure how often I use it, you can have 2 threads on the holder, one going through the needle, an the other winding a bobbin along the way. So when you run out of bobbin thread, an new one is wound and ready to go. I will still be able to wind a bobbin the traditional way as well. I think for common colors, like black, brown, etc. I may use this but I will still be winding bobbins when I use a unique color.
The presser foot will also control back-stitching, presser foot up/down, needle up/down and thread cutting from the foot pedal. Traditionally they mount the pedal middle of the needle, mine will be retrofitted to the right. I asked if that was a problem, he said "no, might make the guys in the shop grumble as they will have to bend some wire" I said "I will bring them brownies".
All in all it was an excellent visit, we are going to take a few days to think it over and "probably" place an order by the end of the week. The machine will take about 3 weeks to be ready, right now it is in stock in Florida, and of course needs to be assembled and mounted to the table.