3D-printed clothing

Via our Submitterator, Fang McGee points us to this novel use of 3D printers: spitting out fabric structures for clothing. From Ecouterre:
 Wp-Content Uploads 2010 07 3D-Printer-Fabric-1 ...Designer-researchers like Freedom of Creation in Amsterdam and Philip Delamore at the London College of Fashion are cranking out seamless, flexible textile structures using software that converts three-dimensional body data into skin-conforming fabric structures. The potential for bespoke clothing, tailored to the specific individual, are as abundant as the patterns that can be created, from interlocking Mobius motifs to tightly woven meshes.
"Are 3D-Printed Fabrics the Future of Sustainable Textiles?" (via Submitterator)


  1. This is an incredible use of this technology, and I was really excited..until I read the title of the article.
    Really? The future of sustainable textiles?
    Beyond the exploitation/greenwashing attitude of adding the words ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ to any ding-dang article, clothing- at least those made out of natural fabrics- aren’t a high priority.
    Secondly, 3d printers- especially now, in their infancy- use incredible amounts of electricity and materials. When you’re printing, you’re not just printing the final material, but a good portion of support material that needs to be washed off with chemicals/lye.
    Ugh. Good idea ruined in my mind by selfish, uninformed marketing.

    1. Yeah, that was my first reaction: “Sustainable? Really? How is that?” I think the idea is, and they don’t really go into it in the article, that the materials are completely recyclable. Get tired of a piece of clothing (or if it’s too damaged to wear) and you can break down the piece into the raw materials needed to print out a new item of clothing.

      I suppose if one is part of the revolving world of fashion, this is a lot more sustainable than simply buying a piece of clothing, wearing it for a season (after which it is now out of fashion) and then throwing it away…

      1. Except that people donate their last-season’s fashions to thrift stores, enabling many people of lesser means to enjoy decent clothes. I can see the potentials in this, but it could also make second hand clothes much harder to find, pushing people to cheaper dollar-store clothes made with sweatshop labor. But then if these allow very well-made, affordable clothes to match the price of dollar-store clothes, it might be a decent exchange, except the sweatshop workers will need to train in clothes printer repair.

  2. Yeah. These aren’t looking that good as textiles either. I mean for a cute flashy vest or scarf, but these don’t seem to be offering much. I’m having trouble seeing these as a good choice for a bra, underwear, pants, etc. The large looped fabrics are simply not going to cut it, the material doesn’t look very breathable, and if these things are as thick as they look the tight knit versions are likely to be hard to move in. These look at the moment about as practical as wearing a pair of jelly shoes on your whole body.

    Can’t imagine that would be nice in 102 degree weather here.

  3. Interesting direction for a young technology.

    I’m looking forward to being able to have a leather jacket made from my own vat-grown skin.

  4. I thought I would find more love here for that. It is one of the first iterations after all. And the material that gets blown off in the “sandblaster” is probably blown off with the same material instead of actual “sand” so that it could be reused. Much like all the powder that is knocked off when the object is pulled out of the printer is just reused. It seem pretty cool to me even if it doesn’t fulfill everyone’s notion of sustainability.

  5. I don’t get why everyone is so down on this. I’m ready to print up a neon green chainmail bikini for the wife right now.

  6. Just the concept alone makes this the best post of the day. Everyone’s criticism comes from where we are NOW- try to put yourselves a decade or so into the future, and most of these concerns would go away. More efficient printers, more accurate and microscopic design/printing possibilities… it makes sense on every level, if we actually give this time to grow. Instead of mass-produced crap that rarely fits anyone well, you have custom-made clothes that actually FIT you, took less resources to make and don’t require 10,000 extra copies that are going to end up being shipped back to the nations they were made in years later as overstock. I’m usually unimpressed by the hype-blown techno-gadgets found on this site that everyone gets wet over, but this one actually deserves the attention. How is this bad again?

    1. Well, sure. The concept is really exciting, and I’m glad there are people working on it. Doesn’t make the current state of the art less crappy.

  7. Interesting concept, but they could have used some other maille weave than European four into one, which was most of the fabrics. All they’ve really done is created a way of producing maille by machine, which a German inventor did in the late 1800s, sparking a short-lived craze for maille purses. If the fabric is recyclable into more fabric with less energy than it takes to create new fabric, then I’ll be impressed. Haven’t seen any proof of that yet.

  8. 3D Printers are wasteful yes. But are we talking here about “3d Pringters”, or, essentially, CNC-Weaving machines that do more then just “flat”.

    I mean, how much waste would a CNC-knitting robot really use?

  9. @amanicdroid – you may see your nipples getting sandpapered off; I see my chest hair getting gradually ripped out with every move, epilady-style. OW, indeed.

  10. This could be ‘micromail’ from Terry Pratchett’s “Unseen Academicals”. No need to wash your underwear: stick it on the fire for five minutes and you are good to go.

  11. Extrusions and sintering are the equivalent of making cloth with monofilament. At 50 thread count. Sure, there will be progress, but what would happen if you put the same effort into a custom knitting machine or even a bot that could knit?

  12. Yeah, we’re gonna need much smaller rings, for starters. And then, you don’t want everything knit…plenty of garment fabrics are woven, kthx. There are good reasons for that, such as fabric weight and behavior when cut/damaged. @20 We already have machine knits, like, oh, your socks and your sweatpants and maybe even your t-shirts. And, while programming takes a long time, you can customize garments on knitting looms, too.

    While we do already go around wearing plastic (e.g. polyester), it’s already known for being rather hot and sweaty; making it into a heavy, thick knit would make it intolerable.

    Nope, this has a lot of work to be anything more than a decorative scarf.

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