During our recent participation at the 3D Printshow in NYC we received a lot of interest from the fashion attendees in our Nylon SLS 3D printed “fabric” samples.
3D printed fashion pieces have received a lot of hype and attention in the media recently, but the vast majority of these fashion pieces are rigid in structure and are in many ways, simply shape making. They have been crudely designed (in our opinion) to fit on a body and worn.
All true design is not simply shape making. It is always about the combination of materials that are created to produce the desired form and function of any object. This lack of finesse is absolutely the result of the limitations within the range of the 3D Print materials currently available for both home and industrial 3D printers.
Here at D2W, we receive many enquiries from fashion designers and students asking if we can print in a flexible material. Although there are a few industrial 3D Print materials that are notionally flexible, in our experience they are very disapointing in terms of their feel, consistency of performance, and lack of durabilty which means that they fail to provide a long term and good solution for the majority of fashion applications. In any case, we do not run any of these materials, so our answer to these enquiries is always no.
However do not despair!
Just because the flexible materials currently available are not all we would wish them to be, it does not mean that you cannot have flexibility designed into a rigid material. Our product designer Tom Mallinson has been exploring the possibilities of flexible structures, and has designed a set of 3D printed panels (printed and emerging from the Nylon SLS printer as a single piece) to demonstrate how to create a flexible and fluid ‘fabric’ from a rigid material.
Using a chain mail structure as the base for each ‘fabric’, Tom has then generated additional geometric patterns which interact with the underlying structure and give each design its own unique quality. The way that the ‘fabric’ moves, feels, looks and even sounds, makes for a new and beautiful material that offers so many intriguing possibilities.
Whilst showing these in New York, so many people asked if they could buy copies of the samples, so we decided to offer them for sale in the new updated shop page on our website where you can choose from 2 different size samples of the individual designs or full sets of the designs at 2 sizes.
There’s still a lot of work to be done by dedicated creatives to design artefacts with this type of “fabric”. However, brilliant things are rarely easily achieved. We really believe these ‘fabrics’ can offer designers the inspiration to explore how 3D printing can be integrated into fashion in a genuine, high quality, exciting and purposeful way; NOW!
Ultimately, fashion should be fantastic in it’s own right and not be hailed as anything special simply because it was entirely or partly produced by the technology du jour. We want to see real, functioning, moving, beautiful fashion on the established catwalks of the World that is silent about the process that made them. We want to see incredible, stunning things that an audience marvels at in their own right and all us boffins need to do is quietly smile at knowing how it was made. We hope that access to these samples brings that day a little closer.