3D printing on fabric: an innovative technique

3D p3D printing always surprises us with 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, develop structures.

Design is always influenced by manufacturing, and the change in a process also changes the way to think about shapes that can be reached. The progress of technology permits to rethink of esthetics and creates new cultural values.

Can 3D printers print on fabric?

3D printers can print on fabric, and It is effortless to do! You can easily create new shapes or give a new life to your old fabrics with any printer you have. Here are 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 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. Trying small pieces before shifting to a larger scale is really useful.

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 to print the layer of curves in the same way. If it is not tested regularly, It can lead to deformed geometry.When the melted filament is deposited on the fabric, it merges with the material, and with the cooling, they are united forever.

Fashion industry: 3D printed clothes

We will see how 3D printing is revolutionizing the fashion industry. It’s a new technology in this field, so not many people know how and why to use it. Plus, the design of the clothes is complex: it requires knowledge of 3D modeling and 3D printing. But it’s also a new way to visualize the artwork more realistically.Until now, it has been confined to Haute Couture, artists, and passionate hobbyists.

As we expected, the knowledge and enthusiasm are spreading worldwide, and there are many examples also in the mass fashion market. Other than accessories, 3D printing is used more 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 suit the creation process of 3D printed clothes are those with 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 widespread in medical and fashion fields. For example, Balenciaga released new pair of 3d printed decolletè, all made in transparent TPU.

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 our generation’s battles: choosing the suitable materials to produce in a more respectful way for the planet. Fashion is under pressure for the continuous turnover of new clothes production every season.

Fast fashion is one of the problems of these times, so everybody is now focused on trying to reduce the impact of the industry. 3D printing is a valid partner to face it because it permits avoiding waste of materials and can use recycled 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 3MT.

Chiara aims 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 interesting to create something to wear, but it can also be a way to build remarkable structures and furniture pieces. The rigidity that 3D printed curves bring to the textile creates a steady system that can sustain itself.

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

This large-scale piece exemplifies how 3D printing on fabric can also be applied to significant structures and challenge how we build installations and structures. This effect of soft spikes comes from the tensions of printed layers on the textile.

3D printed on textile pavillion

Large scale 3D printer

large scale WASP 3d printer

All these masterpieces have been created with the 3MT 3D printer. This is the best printer for creating medium-large pieces thanks to its wide printing bed area of 1m in diameter.