3D printed clothing sounds like a cutting-edge idea, and it surely has great potential, but it’s not yet something available for everyone. Since it’s still a very complex process, 3D printed clothes are mostly restricted to high-end fashion and art.
The fashion industry can make full use of 3D printing technology because it allows designers to go beyond the limits of traditional materials and forms by creating all kinds of apparel in a relatively fast and affordable way. Basically, the garments are made by printing very small pieces that, when assembled together, produce a mesh that adapts to the body shape.
Designers and artists have always been interested in new technologies that help them innovate. Many of them have expressed their work through fashion by creating accessories, shoes, and garments with different materials, such as PLA plastic or rubber. But the combination of these materials and the assembly techniques allow designers to create even more interesting designs.
Perhaps the biggest limitation of 3D printed clothes is the production time needed: A simple garment requires many hours to be printed and assembled, which makes this kind of clothing expensive and excludes many consumers.
However, we have an idea of how much a 3D printed garment can cost thanks to fashion designers like Danit Peleg, who created the world’s first 3D printed jacket available to be purchased on her website for $1,500. According to the description, production is limited to 100 pieces and it can be fully customized by the clients.
As you can see, 3D printed clothing is still very expensive. Yet, as Peleg states, 3D printing technology is improving very quickly, meaning that the costs will become cheaper within the next few years.
Since 3D printing emerged, creative people in all areas have used it to bring awesome projects to life, and fashion is no exception.
Designer and Architect Julia Koerner recently collaborated in the film “Black Panther”, designing the costume for Queen Ramonda’s character. The idea was to achieve a futuristic aesthetic of the African culture. The dress and the accessories have many intricate patterns that could only be achieved with the help of 3D printing.
The design process was fascinating: The first sketches of the costume were made by costume designer Ruth E. Carter, which were later used as the basis for the parametric design made in CAD modeling software. The 3D printing method Koerner used for the fabrication of the costume was Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).
Making the fashion industry processes sustainable is the biggest goal of Julia Daviy, a fashion designer whose work focuses on creating 3D printed clothes that help reduce the great amount of waste generated by traditional methods of fashion production.
According to Julia, 3D printing gives designers the opportunity to create and produce any garment with flexible and biodegradable materials, making them recyclable. She even goes further by introducing the concept of 4D printing in her production process, which means that clothing will someday have the ability to react to weather, light or other external factors. Julia uses large-format 3D printers and does a lot of testing to create their products. She also creates her own patterns and shares a lot of information about her production process on her website.
Nervous System is a design studio focused on digital fabrication and parametric design to create their products, including 3D printed clothes and accessories.
Their project “Kinematics”, realized in 2013 and exposed at the MoMa and the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City, sought to create flexible forms made out of articulated pieces stitched together in a mesh. A dress, a skirt, jewelry, and other kinds of accessories are among the pieces that were created. All of these garments require no assembly at all because all the pieces and hinges that form it are directly 3D printed. They also developed a Kinematics app that allows anyone to customize and order any of these products on their website.
Despite all the limitations, there are a lot of designers in the fashion industry slowly making 3D printed clothing a reality. There’s still a long way to go, but all the technological advances and successful projects bring us closer to an exciting goal: 3D printing your own clothes from the comfort of your home.
Feature image source: centurion-magazine.com
License: The text of "3D Printed Clothes: Myth or Reality?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.