Fabric Futures: 3D Printing
A Kickstarter project is seeking funding to create the world’s first 3D fabric printer. Electroloom’s fundraising page states: “Design and create seamless, ready-to-wear garments based on custom 3D geometries. All from your desktop. No sewing required.”
Based in San Francisco, the start-up’s technology will enable consumers to design and manufacture garments from scratch, with only basic computer-aided design skills needed to create patterns for the Electroloom 3D fabric printer.
Electric fields guide a polyester and cotton blend solution over the user’s custom-made mould, where the nano-fibres bind together to create the fabric. Once removed, it behaves exactly like traditionally woven material – flexing, draping and folding as desired. Early demonstrations have so far produced skirts, shift dresses and a men’s tank top.
As more 3D printers enter consumers’ homes, we expect further advances in the field to drastically alter the way we engage with brands, fostering co-creation and disrupting the traditional supply chain.
At this year’s Decoded Fashion London Summit, speakers such as Joel Freeman, co-founder and chief executive of fashion shopping app Grabble, spoke enthusiastically about the future impact of 3D printing on how fashion will soon be bought and produced. Electroloom’s technology could facilitate the downloading and printing of fashion designs at home.
Belgian fashion designer Bruno Pieters has also detailed plans to provide downloadable garments for his 100% transparent fashion company Honest By. “I’m more and more intrigued by 3D printing,” he said in an interview on the brand’s website, highlighting the ethical and sustainable practices afforded by the technology. “We’re going to have our design online; you will be able to download it, and if you have a 3D printer at home you will be able to print it out, or you can go to a 3D printer shop near you. So all the issues of child labour, animal abuse – they all disappear with 3D printing.”
However, at the moment, the process relies on synthetic or blended synthetic and natural fibres, raising issues regarding garment end-of-life solutions. Currently, mixed fibres are notoriously difficult to recycle and polyester, while recyclable, is non-biodegradable.