Have you heard about 3D printing yet? Also known as additive manufacturing, this form of manufacturing still occurs primarily within industrial settings. Companies rely upon 3D printers to create products ranging from customized prosthetic limbs to prototype automotive components.
However, this emerging technology also promises to revolutionize the world of haute couture during coming decades. It allows fashion designers to transform digital drawings into solid, three-dimensional objects using a specialized form of a high-tech printer. This article describes how three-dimensional printing has already influenced fashion.
Transform Imagination Into New Designs
The process of 3D printing helps designers generate some striking designs. For instance, avant-garde designers such as Iris Van Herpen have relied upon this technology to help them produce distinctive fabrics. In 2015, the noted Parisian couturier displayed her Quaquaversal Collection in a glitzy show. Models crossed paths on the runway wearing distinctive sci-fi and fantasy-themed designs, which included 3D printed materials.
While presently this technology appears confined mainly to the world of high fashion, the fabrication process will reach off-the-rack buyers soon. Researchers have developed a biodegradable, bioactive fabric derived from cornstarch, sugar, tapioca or sugar cane. This substance, called polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA), has formed a constituent in some 3D printing projects. Some fashion designers have envisioned PLA as a substrate for printing clothing accessories, although others foresee elastic thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) as a much better alternative for this purpose. As the development of new 3D fabrics advances, additional materials will likely become popular.
3D printing appears poised to disrupt the jewelry industry, too. A growing number of small designers now have the opportunity to print their unique pieces.
Innovative 3D technology likely won’t completely replace conventional jewelry making techniques. It does democratize the design process, however. Customers can more easily craft their own collections. In addition, designers have the opportunity to produce as many prototypes as they want before opting for the best design.
Companies such as Shapeways furnish ready access to this technology. For instance, designer Kimberly Ovitz used the firm’s printing assistance to create her entire jewelry collection.
Fashion designers foresee great potential for this market. New 3D printing technology holds promise as a way to mass-produce highly customized footwear products. For instance, the large athletic shoemaker Adidas recently created a tennis shoe using 3D printing. The company joins other leading name manufacturers in working to develop highly individualized products.
Manufacturers can tailor shoes generated through this process to meet the unique specifications of individual feet. Additionally, it will permit customers who wear unusually large or small sizes to obtain a broader selection at considerable cost savings. Many leading athletes already order customized 3D printed shoes to enhance comfort on the track.
In the future, customers might even enjoy the ability to order shoes and watch them printed at retail outlets. Some scientists anticipate leather produced entirely from petri dishes and 3D printing will eventually replace the tanned hides used in traditional cowboy boots.
Today 3D printed clothes, shoes, jewelry and other accessories have already begun transforming the fashion world. As more firms begin to experiment with creating fabrics utilizing this innovative process on a limited scale, experts anticipate 3D printed products will soon reach a mass market. In the future, this trend holds great potential for the fashion industry.
Heather Redding is a tech enthusiast and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is a coffee-addict who enjoys swimming and reading. Street photography is her newly discovered artistic outlet and she likes to capture life’s little moments with her camera. You can reach Heather via Twitter.
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