3D printing on fabric: an innovative technique

3D printing always surprises for its wide range of applications: here we’ll discover a new technique to create shapes. It’s an innovative way to design: algorithms are used to generate patterns of curves that through tensions create structures.

Design is always influenced by manufacturing and the change of a process changes also the way to think about which shape can be reached. The progress of technology premits to rethink esthetics and creates new cultural values.

Can 3D printers print on fabric?

3D printers can print on fabric and It is really easy to do! Any printer you have you can easily create new shapes or give a new life to your old fabrics. Here some tips to print and some case studies from which you can get inspiration.

How to 3D print on fabric

3D printing on fabric is easy and it doesn’t require many other additional components. The only things that you need are pins and in some cases a platform to raise the printing bed. In this workshop, students learned how to print on textile with their small printers Delta WASP 2040 PRO. It is really interesting to try small pieces before shift to larger scale.

The more difficult part is the design process: when you print you don’t see the final result until you release the tensions of the pins on the textile. This can be really exciting, for the continous experiments and the discovery of new shapes. It’s a totally different way to design.

The textile needs to be stretched on the bed and fixed well in order to print the layer of curves in the same way. If it is not strecthed regularly, It can lead to deformed geometry.
When the melt filament is deposited on the fabric, it merges with the material and with the cooling they are united forever.

Fashion industry: 3D printed clothes

First example that we are going to see is how 3D printing is revolutionizing the fashion industry. 3D printing is a quite new technology in this field, so not many people know how and why use it. In plus, the design of the clothes is really complex, like creating a real piece of art: it requires knwoledge in 3D modeling and 3D printing. But it is also a new way to visualize the artwork in a more realistic way before creating it: until now it was all designed in 2D and then sewed.

This is the reason why until now it has been confined to Haute Couture, artists and passionated hobbysts. As we expected, the knowledge and the enthusiasm are spreading across the world and there are many examples also in the mass fashion market. Other than accessories, 3D printing is more and more used for shoes, bags and functional clothes. Also NASA has its research laboratory where scientists study how to upgrade spacesuits with 3D printing.

Flexible filament

The materials that most suit the process of creation of 3D printed clothes are those who have flexible features. TPU is the most used filament to create objects that need to be in contact with skin because it adapts its shape to body curves. So it is really common in medical and fashion fields. For example Balenciaga released new pair of 3d printed decolletè all made in transparent TPU.

This sole is printed with WASP FLEX Extruder: you can print flexible materials until 50A of shore (medium-soft flexibility).

Haute couture: Iris Van Herpen

Iris Van Herpen is for sure one of the most iconic example of 3d printed artworks in fashion industry. Her stunning dresses are famous worldwide, worn by actors and singers in gran galà and other important events. Her creations are unique pieces, like sculptures.

Iris Van Herpen fashion runway

She has always combined art and technology, inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci mindset. Nature is her biggest counselor and all colors and shapes combinations come from animals and plants. This interest in nature and eco-systems leads Iris to care about sustainability and the purpose to create pieces environment-friendly.

Fashion and sustainability

Sustainability is one of the battle that our generation is fighting: choosing the right materials to produce in a more respectful way for the planet.
Fashion is under pressure for the continous turnover of new clothes production that happens every season. Fast fashion is one of the problem of these times, so everybody are now focused on trying to reduce the impact of the industry. 3D printing is a valid partner to face it because it permits to avoid waste of materials.

A student creates her 3D printed fashion line

Milan-based student of Politecnico di Milano, Chiara Giusti, has designed and produced a clothing line for her University project. She printed her collection at Superforma, Milan WASP Hub, using WASP’s large scale 3D printer Delta WASP 3MT.

Chiara’s goal is to create fashion and comfortable clothes, adding complex 3D printed patterns to textiles. This example demonstrates that 3D printing clothes can be done by everyone simply at home (with a little bit of practice).

Models wear 3d printed clothes from the collection TECHNE

Art, design and architecture

3D printing on textile is not only interesting to create something to wear, but it can also be a way to build remarkable structures and furniture’s pieces. The rigidity that 3D printed curves bring to the textile, create a steady structure that can sustain itself.

The shapes created printing on fabric are also interesting for furniture pieces like lamps. In these example, created by Drag and Drop Design studio, emerges the structure and the articulate shape achievable with this process.

This large scale piece is the example of how 3D printing on fabric can be applied also on big structures and challenge the way we build installations and architecture. This effect of soft spikes comes from the tensions of printed layers on the textile.

3D printed on textile pavillion

Large scale printer used to print these pieces

large scale WASP 3d printer

All these masterpieces have been created with Delta WASP 3MT Industrial 4.0. This is the best printer to create medium-large size pieces thanks to its wide printing bed area of 1m of diameter.