Can You Make Clothes with a 3D Printer?


Making clothes with a 3D printer is something that people think about, but is it actually possible to do this? I’ll answer that question in this article so you know more about 3D printing in the fashion industry.

Keep on reading for more information about making clothes with a 3D printer.

Can Clothes Be 3D Printed? Making Clothes with a 3D Printer

Yes, clothes can be 3D printed, but not for standard everyday wear. They are more of a niche or experimental fashion statement that have been seen on runways and in the high fashion industry.  It’s even possible to use a 3D printer setup to spin real yarn into clothing, using a method of layering and connecting.

Sew Printed did a great video explaining five different ways to 3D print fabrics and textiles, which you can check below.

Check out some examples of 3D printed clothing:

As with any new technology, people are always experimenting and finding out new ways to produce clothes from 3D printers.

One user described their own method for making textiles with a 3D printer using a wide range of yarns (synthetic and natural), that doesn’t produce waste as yarns can be disassembled and reutilized.

The fibers aren’t stitched or woven, the yarn is actually melted but not entirely fused in a way it is still a continuous strand when applied.

They are calling the fabric 3DZero as it is 3D printed and produces zero waste, once you have the raw materials you can just re-use them. Their goal is local production on demand and fully personalized.

Can You 3D Print Clothes - 3D Print Real Yarn - 3D Printerly

Best 3D Printed Clothing Designers – Dresses & More

Some of the best 3D printed clothing designers and brands are:

  • Casca
  • Daniel Christian Tang
  • Julia Koerner
  • Danit Peleg

Casca

Casca is a Canadian brand, trying to implement 3D printing fashion as a sustainable alternative to fast fashion. Casca’s philosophy is centered around the motto “less things that do more”.

One pair of their shoes is meant to replace several pairs of normal shoes. For that to work, Casca created 3D printed custom insoles. The customer selects the desired footwear and size and after that, you will download the Casca app to get a scan of your feet.

When the scan is confirmed and complete, they will craft the flexible, custom insole via 3D printing along with the ordered design and size.

So that they won’t produce further waste and consumption, Casca produces only in small batches, reordering whenever the styles have sold out. They hope to fully decentralize the supply chain by manufacturing 100% custom-fit shoes in-store by 2029.

Casca founders talked with ZDnet on video and explained their entire vision when building a brand based on 3D printing technology.

Daniel Christian Tang

Another big market in 3D printed wearables is jewelry. Daniel Christian Tang, a luxury jewelry brand, uses architectural modeling software in tandem with 3D digital manufacturing technology.

They design rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, and they are cast in gold, rose gold, platinum and sterling silver.

You can see their founders talking about the world of 3D printed luxury jewelry just below.

One user has expressed how he thinks 3D printing is here to stay in the jewelry industry, mainly for its job creating waxes.

One user made a lovely ‘floating’ necklace that looks really nice.

I 3D printed a ‘floating’ necklace. 🙂 from 3Dprinting

A lot of the 3D printed clothes that have been showcased have been there for novelty but there is a real market for 3D printed shoes and prescription glasses, among other things.

3D printed fashion

Julia Koerner

Another designer making use of 3D printing in clothing design is Julia Koerner, who worked on 3D printed clothing for the marvel movie “Black Panther”, creating the head pieces for many of the Wakanda residents, as she explains in the video below.

Danit Peleg

Danit Peleg, a design pioneer, started to redefine the status quo by designing printable clothing with sustainable materials and using techniques that cut out the inflating supply chain.

What makes Peleg’s highly desired fashion line truly is that not only can customers personalize their pieces, but they receive the digital files of the clothing so they can have it printed through a 3D printer closest to them.

Check out Danit making 3D printed clothing in her own home.

In 2018, Forbes recognized Peleg as one of Europe’s Top 50 Women in Tech, and she was featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Danit has been very passionate about creating a new wave of sustainable 3D printed clothes.

She is using her passion to invest time in learning about 3D printing in ways that could revolutionize the industry.

A breakthrough came for Danit when she began using a durable and flexible filament called FilaFlex, one of the most elastic filaments reaching 650% stretch to break. The filament was a perfect match for Danit’s flexible creations.

After a lot of research, Danit selected the Craftbot Flow Idex 3D printer since it was able to print FilaFlex well, having great efficiency and precision.

The Craftbot team continues developing new software and hardware technologies for filament printing, including Craftware Pro, a proprietary slicer program that offers tons of innovative features for professional printing applications.

Danit explains that and much more at her TED talk about the 3D print revolution in fashion.

Is 3D Printing Clothes Sustainable?

Yes, 3D printing clothes is sustainable because it is an environmentally friendly option for those in the fashion industry. You can use recycled plastic to create many items and many fashion distributors are using biodegradable materials to 3D print their clothes.

You can also recycle your own 3D printed clothes, have manufacturers work with less inventory, reduce waste production and change the impact of the fashion industry on the environment.

One of the biggest benefits to this is how you can reduce carbon emissions through not having to transport the 3D printed clothing far distances. If you have the 3D printing file, you can find a 3D printer close to you and create it locally.

That’s why 3D printed clothing is considered one of the most promising technologies when it comes to making the fashion world more sustainable as the never ending demand of the fast fashion industry adds only more pressure on cheap labor around the world.

Many big brands are coming up with new processes to improve or change their production models, trying to be more eco-friendly.

Technology like 3D printing has the ability to create something new for the industry, and does it sustainably. If the brands want to improve production and their distribution of goods, they must head towards innovative technologies that will really disrupt the sector.

At least one user is looking to never buy clothes again after learning how to 3D print his own shirt. He even made the file of his newly 3D Printed Shirt V1 available online.

Check out the video he made below.

I made a fully 3D printed shirt to go with my 3D printed necktie! Never buy clothes again! from 3Dprinting

With billions of clothing items being manufactured every year, finding effective and sustainable solutions to the global clothing demand is crucial as we continue to face market issues. It is necessary for us to innovate and adopt more sustainable and cost-effective ways of making our clothes.

3D printing also allows you to salvage and recover clothes faster than you would if you traditionally sewed them.

This happens because the threads are molded together instead of sewn, and you can easily separate them if you make any mistakes while printing, significantly reducing the likelihood of your thread breaking.

You can also disassemble the fabric and get back yarns for re-using as explained by one user.

3D Printing fabrics/clothes and how we are doing it! Here front panel of our TShirt. from 3Dprinting

Benefits of 3D Printing in Fashion

Some of the main benefits of 3D printing in fashion are:

  • Recyclability
  • Minimal Inventory
  • Sustainability
  • Custom designs

Recyclability

One of the nicest aspects of 3D printing clothing is that these clothes are more recyclable. 3D printed items can be turned into powder with the help of the proper machinery and then can be used to create more 3D items.

That way, a piece of clothing can last a very long time as it can be recycled over and over again.

Minimal Inventory

3D printing also provides an innovative solution to one of fashion’s biggest problems: overproduction. Printing on demand produces less waste and reduces the amount of unused clothes.

That means minimal inventory, you only make what you sell.

This reduces the number of manufacturers making clothes in large quantities with many items that never sell and end up generating waste and pollution.

Sustainability

According to Julia Daviy in her video below, 3D printing can drastically decrease the textile industry’s terrible impact on local wildlife and farmland and the communities that surround it.

A lot of designers use 3D printing for these reasons. It is a more sustainable method, creates less inventory and moves the final product faster. It is a more eco-friendly way to create clothes because it destroys unused materials and fabric.

If you are printing a shirt, you’ll use the exact number of materials needed. No need to buy or waste extra fabric by throwing off additional materials as you would when sewing.

It’s an additive manufacturing method, which means you don’t have the same amount of waste afterwards.

Custom Designs

One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing your own clothes is choosing your own design, having total control over size and shape and creating your own custom clothes that no one else in the world will have, unless of course, you decide to share the file online!

As people are slowly starting to 3D print some clothes at home, one user 3D printed a bikini top and says it turned out pretty comfortable!

Naomi Wu made a whole video showing the process of her creating a 3D printed bikini top.

Disadvantages of 3D Printing in Fashion

Some of the biggest disadvantages of 3D printing in fashion are:

  • Time
  • Complex design
  • Environmental impact

Time

Time is one of the biggest disadvantages of 3D printing in fashion. Peleg’s custom 3D printed bomber jackets take an astonishing 100 hours to print.

Even with the advances the technology has seen, which improved printing time from days to minutes, a complex clothing piece can still take a long time to be 3D printed.

Complex Design

There are more challenges to 3D print clothes yourself. You need a complex design, that is strong and robust, and you might need to manipulate the materials and do some hand fashion to perfect your design.

While many people prefer to use large-formats to 3D print clothes, you can choose from multiple approaches. Creating several small hollow objects and locking them together will create a weaving pattern. You can then change the shape and size, getting your own custom design.

Changing your 3D printer’s settings and removing the walls from your objects can also help to create a flat fabric. Several users also suggest to print unheated when printing onto fabric to avoid the chance of melting.

Environmental Impact

3D printed clothes are a lot more eco-friendly than the rest of the fashion industry, but 3D printers also create waste that can not be disposed properly as some printers generate tons of plastic from failed prints.

One user voiced worry about the environmental impact of 3D printers. Some materials like PETG are very easy to recycle, while others can be harder to do.

While many big brands move to start making their own 3D printed outfits or accessories, from Nike to NASA, it still may take a while for the everyday consumer to see it in the shop around the corner.

Still, advances are being made in filament research creating new possibilities for texture and flexibility. For now, you can create rare and individual clothes using a 3D printer with more control over design and sizing, but we still will be stuck with fast fashion for a while.

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