3D printing is sometimes referred to as Additive Manufacturing (AM). In 3D printing, one creates a design of an object using software, and the 3D printer creates the object by adding layer upon layer of material until the shape of the object is formed. The object can be made using many printing materials, including plastics, powders, filaments and paper.
Types of 3D printing technology
Stereolithography makes use of liquid plastic as the source material and this liquid plastic is transformed into a 3D object layer by layer1. Liquid resin is placed in a vat that has a transparent bottom.
A UV (Ultra Violet) laser traces a pattern on the liquid resin from the bottom of the vat to cure and solidify a layer of the resin. The solidified structure is progressively dragged up by a lifting platform while the laser forms a different pattern for each layer to create the desired shape of the 3D object3.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
3D printing DLP technology is very similar to Stereolithography but differs in that it uses a different light source and makes use of a liquid crystal display panel1.
This technology makes use of more conventional light sources and the light is controlled using micro mirrors to control the light incident on the surface of the object being printed. The liquid crystal display panel works as a photomask.
This mechanism allows for a large amount of light to be projected onto the surface to be cured, thereby allowing the resin to harden quickly.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
With this technology, objects can be built with production-grade thermoplastics1. Objects are built by heating a thermoplastic filament to its melting point and extruding the thermoplastic layer by layer. Special techniques can be used to create complex structures.
For example, the printer can extrude a second material that will serve as support material for the object being formed during the printing process1. This support material can later be removed or dissolved.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS has some similarities with Stereolithography. However, SLS makes use of powdered material that is placed in a vat. For each layer, a layer of powdered material is placed on top of the previous layer using a roller and then the powdered material is laser sintered according to a certain pattern for building up the object to be created.
Interestingly, the portion of the powdered material that is not sintered can be used to provide the support structure and this material can be removed after the object is formed for re-use1.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
The SLM process is very similar to the SLS process. However, unlike the SLS process where the powdered material is sintered the SLM process involves fully melting the powdered material1.
Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
This technology is also much like SLM. However, it makes use of an electron beam instead of a high-powered laser1. The electron beam fully melts a metal powder to form the desired object. The process is slower and more expensive than for SLM with a greater limitation on the available materials.
Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
This is a rapid prototyping system. In this process, layers of material coated with adhesive are fused with heat and pressure and then cut into shape using a laser cutter or knife1, 2.
More specifically, a foil coated with adhesive is overlaid on the previous layer and a heated roller heats the adhesive for adhesion between the two layers. Layers can be made of paper, plastic, or metal laminates1.
The process can include post-processing steps that include machining and drilling. This is a fast and inexpensive method of 3D printing1. With the use of an adhesion process, no chemical process is necessary and relatively large parts can be made2.
Applications of 3D printing in fashion
- Integral Pieces– 3D printing for additive manufacturing is practically applied to geometric shapes and rigid creations instead of flexible garments. Dance the first 3D printing work was on import equal pieces presented by a Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen during a ready-to-wear fashion show in 2011. In collaboration with London architect, Herpen produced parts using Selective Laser Sintering 3D printers.
- Meshes– Most 3D printed garments are produced using the mesh system. Designer Danit Peleg used a home printer to print for her entire graduate collection with no specific technology. Then she created 3D printed designs including the first fully 3D printed bomber. NASA is also preparing to print 3D mesh coats for cosmonauts.
- Garment Accessories– 3D printing is now used to prepare ornaments for the traditional textile like the elements of garments including buttons, rings, or even leather goods used by Exocet Paris bags. Creating 3D printed accessories thermoplastic polyurethane and other polymers like polyamide are used.
- Leather goods– Having its utility in the manufacturing of garment accessories, 3D painting also serves as a time saving and cost-effective method for the production of metal parts of leather goods. 3D printing technology not only reduces the cost but also facility production on-demand, on-time testing of new parts, and reduces waste generation. This technology helps in cost reduction thereby increasing the margins because the material used in the production of leather goods is quite expensive.
- Accessories– 3D printing technology is also used for the production of fashion accessories especially glasses and umbrellas. This technology could be used to design costume jewelry as evident by the alliance between luxury brands and VOJD studios.
- Jewelry – In addition to the production of costume jewelry, additive manufacturing technology can also be used to make the blueprints or a prototype for the complex and technical parts and also for the direct production as used by Gemmyo to produce the simplest part quickly and reducing the storage cost. Initially, all the jewels sold on Gemmyo’s website with computer-generated images, and on receiving orders the jewels were created using 3D printing technology but now these jewelry are also available in its physical stores.
- Shoes– Brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, and other major sneaker brands are using 3D printing to facilitate customization for their customers. Adidas uses this technique to address the specific needs of each customer by printing souls according to the foot of customers. 3D printed outsole also helps to maximize the performance of the final shoe featuring a more pressurized area and make points with low-pressure mode flexible.
Top 3D Printed Dresses
- Gems of the ocean – Full-length 3D printed gown designed by Samuel Canning and Melinda Looi.
- Synapse Dress– Designer Anouk Wipprecht using Intel’s Edison module that apprehends data and performs various functions.
- The smoke dress – Anouk Wipprecht created a dress that releases smoke as someone steps closer to the wearer. This helps the wearer to be alert that someone is stepping into the personal space of the wearer.
- Voltage Collection Dress– Dresses designed by Iris Van Herpen has a lace-like texture created with utmost accuracy using Laser Sintering.
- The spider dress – Anouk Wipprecht fabricated a dress that captures the breathing intensity of the wearer and when the breathing becomes heavy the robotic arms on the dress extend out to defend the wearer.
How 3D printing is leading to a new era in the textile industry
- The advanced technology of 3D printing helps in making the development possible that will revolutionize production and trade in the fashion and textile industry. Garments, shoes, accessories could be designed and created using 3D printing and 4D printing will take this process to a new level with fascinating applications.
- 3D printing in the fashion industry is changing the complete value chain in the apparel industry from designing and prototyping to the finished product and its delivery
- Designers are now using 3D technology to produce cost-effective prototypes and samples before the product could go into mass production.
- 3D printing technology has made online shopping easier with a feature to scan the body shape and getting the clothing suggestion.
- Online 3D Catwalk with personalized avatar is also possible using virtual reality glasses.
Future of 3D printing in textile
Currently, 3D printing technology is used by the designers on rigid material for producing meshes, garments, accessories, shoes watch parts, etc. but soon this technology could be used on a flexible material.
Once 3D printing becomes trendy there will be a situation where anyone can easily use the downloadable patterns and print clothes are their home. This could be used in shops and stores where anyone can walk in and print their fashion items.
3D printed clothes could have the sensors and other wearable technology that could make the fashionable items smarter along with featuring the privacy and authenticity of the wearer. It is quite possible that even the colors of these clothes could be changed according to the particular occasion.