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An illustration shows how an apparel manufacturing machine could make use of fluorescent ink printing and ultraviolet light to guide a customized cutting process. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Amazon has taken one more conceptual step toward an integrated system that can size up fashion customers and sell them tailor-made clothing.

The latest advance comes in the form of a patent published today, describing a system that could use fluorescent inks as a guide for cutting fabric. The inks would be invisible under normal lighting, but when the fabric is illuminated with ultraviolet light, “the fluorescent reflection can be captured by image sensors to generate instructions to cut the panels out from the textile sheet.”

“The reflection can also be used as assembly notations for reference by sewing workers or automated sewing systems,” Amazon inventor Rouzbeh Safavi Aminpour says in the patent application, which was filed back in 2016.

Aminpour was in on a previously issued patent that lays out an assembly-line system of computer-controlled printers, cutters and sewing stations for producing on-demand apparel.

The beauty of the system is that the cutting guides and assembly instructions can be custom-printed on the fabric to reflect the eventual wearer’s size and fit. Other inks could be printed onto the fabric at the same time, to reflect the wearer’s desired color pattern for the fabric.

What’s more, the technique could be used not just with fabric, but with paper, plastic, leather and rubber materials as well. That opens the way for customized clothes as well as footwear, scarves, gloves, hats, bags, belts, bedding, curtains, towels and other manufactured goods, the application says.

Amazon traditionally doesn’t comment on the patents that it acquires, and there’s no guarantee that robotic tailors will be making their way to the company’s fulfillment centers anytime soon. But the concept meshes well with Amazon’s ambition to be involved in a wide range of sectors in the fashion industry.

For example, Amazon has been developing tools to help customers get a better sense of how they’d look in what they see online.

Amazon’s “Outfit Compare” tool uses advice from behind-the-scenes experts to tell customers whether they look better in outfit A or outfit B.

Echo Look, unveiled last year as an invitation-only product, is an Alexa-powered device with a hands-free camera that helps customers get an all-around view of their wardrobe. There’s also a “Style Check” feature that takes advantage of machine learning to make fashion recommendations.

And that’s just the start: A recently awarded patent describes a blended-reality mirror in which customers could see themselves wearing virtual clothes in a virtual environment.

Yet another patent envisions a system that uses 3-D printers to make customized goods, potentially right inside the truck that makes the delivery. And who knows? Maybe that’ll be a self-driving truck.

It’s clear where this is going, right? I, for one, welcome our style-setting robot overlords.

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