ABM International Innova AutoPilot Hands-On Report

I finally have the computerized Innova fully up and working!

Innova AutoPilot

Innova AutoPilot

Here’s an acronym for the day: BLUF (Bottom-Line Up Front).  I will challenge any other computerized system to have the same stitch quality as the ABM Innova AutoPilot.  It is fantastic!  The detail of the stitching, and dead-on accuracy, is beyond what I have seen before.  That alone should make you buy this system.

Key useful pieces of information: The robotic system consists of two x-axis belts (very tight tension for high accuracy), a y-axis belt. a modification to the carriage that does not take up any more width than your original carriage, a set of motors on either side of the frame, and two computers:  One is the HP touchsmart computer that you see hanging from the frame, and another is a dedicated “grey box” running the robot itself.  The advantage of having two computers is that if Vista decides to do something “interesting”, the dedicated robot computer just keeps on running.  This is the right way to run a computerized robotic quilting system.  The touchsmart computer can either be run by wireless mouse or by actually touching the screen — this seemed a little cheesy to me at first, but is actually a good interaction method when you’re running the robotic program and need to make minor changes.

The software itself has some nice features — you can flip a pattern on the x-axis or y-axis, connect multiple patterns together with groups or without, scale, rotate, set sequences, crop, resave patterns that you have manipulated, etc.  All the core features that you would want to have on a robotic system.  For example, if you are doing a 6″ tall edge-to-edge, you can set up one run, copy a second run below it, reverse the stitching order, and sew multiple passes back and forth in one programmed sequence, rather than having to re-program in each pass.

The sewing itself is outstanding — the AutoPilot has an active feedback mechanism that the robotic computer knows where the head is at all times and therefore will not skew the pattern due to drag on the machine.  This means that your 68″ long pattern will stitch out to exacltly 68″ long, not 67″, not 69″.  Because I can see the head location on the computer screen, I know exactly where my pattern will stitchout as the robot executes the pattern.  There are other systems out there for the Innova, but I think that this feature is what justifies the higher price-tag for the AutoPilot system.

The AutoPilot software is being developed in-house by ABM International — that means that if you have a feature request, it goes right to the programmers for evaluation and implementation.  Some major improvements have been made since I first saw this system in February, and they are not stopping development.  Try to get that from Statler!

Summary: I am exceedingly pleased with the AutoPilot and highly recommend it to any Innova owners who are looking at robotic systems — it’s well worth the money!

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11 Responses to ABM International Innova AutoPilot Hands-On Report

  1. Kathy Vanacoro says:

    Wow….I wish I could afford the computer system, but I had to sell my soul just to get the 18″…but good luck…

  2. Amy Hunter says:

    I met you at MQS — I was working in the Innova booth. I’m glad that you’re satisfied with the AutoPilot!

  3. yola says:

    Hi Jeanne, would you recommend the Innova 18″ above the TinLizzie 18″? This is for a beginner quilter, to start a small home-based business?? I am from South Africa and we dont have Innova-dealers here. I would have to import the machine without even seeing it? I cannot afford the 26″ at this stage? Any advise would be appreciated?

    • quiltingbyjeanne says:

      If you can find a used Tin Lizzie 18LS, it is a good deal. If you can’t, I would certainly go for a new Innova over a new Tin Lizzie. The main difference is the stitch regulator. The Tin Lizzie stitch regulator only goes to 1500 spm, which means you can go faster than the stitch regulator at reasonably fast speeds and your stitches will lengthen. The Innova stitch regulator goes to 3000 spm, so you won’t have that problem. I would be very confident recommending to buy the Innova sight unseen.

  4. yola says:

    Thanx for the quick reply Jeanne! I appreciate it. Just want to know- the stitch regulator- is that the standard SR or the Pro Series? I think the Pro Series is about $2100 extra? Thats quite a lot in SA Rand ($ amount x8).
    Can I ask your advise please? Is it worthwhile to buy the additional roller and brackets for a roll of batting? And the open toe foot? Do you use these?
    I wish I could buy the Autopilot or similar computer program, but it is too expensive! Is the EQ6 helpfull for quilting patterns? I feel a bit lost in deciding where to start and what to buy? THANX for all your help!! Yola

    • quiltingbyjeanne says:

      That’s the standard SR. I don’t think you would need to upgrade to the pro series. Since I purchase battings by the pack rather than the roll, I don’t use the extra roller for batting. The open toe foot is nice, though. I haven’t used EQ6 for quilting patterns; you might try panto-lite (http://pqdesigner.com/panto/download.htm) that allows you to scale digital pantos to the size you’re printing, or the organized quilter (http://www.eurekadocumentation.com/organizedquilter.htm) for keeping your patterns organized. Good luck — let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. yola says:

    Thanks Jeanne, your help is much appreciated!!!

  6. yola says:

    Hi Jeanne, I’ve looked on internet at Pro-Q Lite (panto-lite) – its seems very easy, but there is only few patterns (26?) then you can buy online (which does work out quite expensive for me with the exchange rate)
    I’ve also looked at Pro-Q Designer. Do you know anything about this? It looks like very complicated system for computerized quilting- a lot of functions though. But I dont know if you can use this for hand-guided quilting? And perhaps it is bit too advanced for beginner?
    Do you know anything about the QuiltCad (Grace Company)?
    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    I would like to get the panto-program at same time as machine, otherwise I might just get stuck without patterns here at the tip of Africa?
    Thanx!

    • quiltingbyjeanne says:

      I think Pro-Q is really only designed for computerized quilting. I’ve got it, but I’m not sure how you could use it for hand-guided quilting. you might consider contacting Ellen Munnich (ellen@munnichdesign.com) to ask her directly on Panto-lite and Pro-Q and get her suggestions. I haven’t heard anything about QuiltCAD, so I can’t really tell you anything about that.

  7. yola says:

    Hi Jeanne,
    when you started LAQ, did you do this hand-guided, ie without the computer?
    I’ve been looking at pictures of quilting and I am a bit despondent now. It seems that all the great quilting is done with computer-programs. Or am I wrong? Can I do this without a computer-program, especially when I start out?
    If I’m thinking of adding a computer-program later, would it be better to try and buy the 26″? Or can you quilt with the computer on 18″? I hope I’m making sense to you? I am confused and need to decide before the price increase…
    Thanx, Yola in South Africa

    • quiltingbyjeanne says:

      If you want some pictures of some great hand-quilting, go do a google search for Irena Bluhm. She just started quilting in 2005 and is an amazing freehand quilter. My personal opinion is that good long-armers work on both skills. There are some that do just computer quilting, but even computer quilting has some limitations. I started on quilting with a little Juki 9″ machine (not a good idea) with a computer system, but I started learning freehand when I got a Tin Lizzie 18LS. I recommend you start with free-hand, get comfortable with that, then go for a computer. You’ll learn all the necessary techniques before complicating things with a computer system. As far as which system to buy, I would get the 26″ if you are thinking of ultimately getting a computer system. You’ll want to be able to quilt as large a space as possible. The nice thing about the Innova is that the 26″ is no more difficult to use than the 18″. For the small increase in price, get the 26″.

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