Can You 3D Print Fabric? How A 3D Printing Mistake Helped Design The Fabric Of The Future

  • October 29, 2023
  • 5 min read
Can You 3D Print Fabric? How A 3D Printing Mistake Helped Design The Fabric Of The Future

3D printers are playing an increasingly important role in the world of technology, and evencapable of fixing submarines, among 3D printed clothes. Even some hospitals use these devices to perform safer surgeries. On this occasion, a student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used a 3D printing error to design DefeXtiles, the future fabric.

Can You 3D Print Fabric?

Sometimes, 3D printers suffer a series of failures, such as depositing the material incorrectly. Jack Forman, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, has taken advantage of a common flaw of these devices, under extrusion of the polymer filament, to create DefeXtiles. This tulle-like fabric can be molded into more complex shapes. Well, indeed best 3D-printed clothes.

Forman has taken advantage of the defect of the holes that the process leaves in the plastic to produce flexible polymer textiles in a simple way and without a large outlay of money. DefeXtiles are thin, stretchy fabrics made from common 3D printing materials that can be printed quickly and in a variety of shapes using just an affordable 3D printer, with no modifications or additional software.

Can You 3D Print Fabric? Yes! A Flexible Fabric

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers create items by extracting successive layers of molten plastic. Once cooled, these fuse and form a hardened solid object. However, when, due to an error, not enough plastic is extruded, the final product appears riddled with tiny holes.

This is a failure that this student has taken advantage of to create a material composed of tiny pillars of polymer plastic joined together by thin strands of polymer. Forman has already printed thin, flexible sheets of this fabric on full-size skirts and even a bolt of fabric long enough to stretch across a baseball diamond (the infield area), among other items.

A Flexible Fabric That Can Change The Future Of Fashion With The Best 3D Printed Clothes

“What excites me most is the immediate utility it can be for many manufacturers. The fact that you don’t need custom software or hardware, just a cheap $250 3D printer, the most common type of printer, makes this technique accessible to millions of people,” commented Forman.

Future Material For 3D Printed Clothes

DefeXtiles are a fabric that can also be sewn, decreased, and heat-glued as an iron-on patch. Forman, who works with Professor Hiroshi Ishii, presented and demonstrated research on this new fabric on October 20 at the Association for Computing Machinery Symposium on Software and User Interface Technology.

Technological Innovation In The World Of Fashion

As we usually say, 3D printing has no limits other than those of your imagination. 3D-printed clothes are an excellent example of this. Something unimaginable until a few years ago is now so real that high fashion designers are even using it. Thanks to 3D printing, anyone can make their clothes at home or set up their own clothing store.

What Is 3D Printed Fashion?

3D-printed clothes fashion takes advantage of the high flexibility of this technology to create all types of garments. Like any other object, 3D-printed clothing is digitally designed following tailoring patterns based on smart meshes.

Then, thanks to the wide variety of existing materials, the designs are transformed into flexible and durable clothing. Most designs are reserved for the world of fashion and catwalks. Still, many local stores are beginning to sell their designs, especially regarding accessories such as earrings, rings, or shoes.

What Are Best 3D Printed Clothes Like?

3D-printed clothing is made with materials such as TPU, a type of flexible filament that is characterized by being incredibly durable, resistant, and adaptable. Therefore, clothing made with this filament shares these same characteristics. Another of the materials used, especially to create complements and accessories, is PLA, an ecological thermoplastic polymer that is easy to handle and without post-processing.

3D printing allows you to make details that adhere to traditional fabric or even clothing completely made only with 3D filaments. Furthermore, as we will see later, a special 3D printer has been invented that allows you to work with textile materials.

The great advantage that 3D printed clothes provide is that you can work directly with patterns, even large sizes. This represents a great saving in material since nothing is wasted, which happens when we work with old fabric.

In short, clothing made with 3D printers offers us multiple advantages:

  • Flexible, durable, and adaptable materials.
  • Pattern printing
  • All types of clothing and accessories
  • Customizable
  • Ecological
  • Economic
  • Accessible

Currently, there are many collections of the best 3D printed clothes made with 3D printers, especially when we talk about high-end fashion. One of the most impressive collections was created by Danit Peleg during his graduation project in 2015. Best of all, she made it in his own home with a regular 3D printer.

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Fatima Humayun

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