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Delivering stunning fashion through rapid manufacturing

We recently took a look at 3D printing’s applications in the world of sports, where the technology is being used to generate professional-quality equipment, shoes and clothing. However, that’s not the only sector in which a rapid manufacturing approach is being utilised to deliver quality wearables — the fashion world has its own innovators, who are diving head-first into 3D printing technology.

We’ve seen 3D printed clothes on the catwalk as far back as 2013, when Dita Von Teese donned a gown created by Shapeways.

Since then, we’ve seen numerous other forward-thinking designers exploring a rapid manufacturing approach. While the printed clothes we’ve seen on that catwalk have predominantly been sophisticated, experimental designs, the technology is slowly but surely developing to the point we will see designs that would be ideal for day-to-day use.

In May 2017, we saw 3D printed clothes become commercially available at last, when Israeli designer Danit Paleg made her customisable jackets available for order for the first time. Paleg first revealed her 3D printed designs at the 2015 RAPID fashion show, and has since worked hard to deliver a commercially viable version of the designs. Crucially, the initial run of jackets will be limited to 100 pieces, to ensure they can be delivered successfully. In the long-term, Peleg envisions customers being able to print their own clothing on desktop printers, downloading the files directly from the internet.

We would expect this project to go a long way towards establishing rapid manufacturing as a serious technology for the creation of clothes. In fact, the concept of rapid manufacturing in fashion has evolved so fast, that we are even seeing the first dedicated software tools for the field appearing. In May 2017, Sharecloth — a Moscow-based software developer — announced a new app that provide designers with a range of specialist tools for creating 3D-printable designs, then downloading them as g-code applications that could be sent to a printer or uploaded to an online community platform.

We’ve also seen DyeMansion — Germany’s experts in finishing for plastic 3D printing — deliver a range of post-processing techniques that are ideal for the creation of colourful fashion accessories, such as frames for glasses, in collaboration with companies like ic! Berlin.

3D printing’s flexibility and rapid manufacturing capabilities make it a natural fit for the fashion world. However, there is certainly a long way to go before we see customers printing their clothes at home rather than visiting the high-street shops. For a start, the printing time involved is still considerable, and the materials can still be prohibitively expensive. However, this is likely to change as the materials, technology and software continue to evolve. As more companies like Sharecloth and DyeMansion provide designers with tools created with their specific needs in mind, we are sure to see more and more of them apply their creativity to this technology, with what are sure to be fascinating results.