3D Printing has currently sliced it’s way into mainstream society, opening up a vortex of manufacturing developments and popular attention. This cutting-edge technology opens up possibilities for rapid 3D prototyping across the arts and fashion world… so what exactly is holding us back?

The great potential of the 3D fashion world is only just being explored. The first ever 3D printed dress was brought to the world’s attention 3 years ago, after being modelled on the catwalk in New York by Dita Von Teese. (See photo on left). Neither needle or thread was used in the creation of this futuristic vision. The dress was developed by designer Francis Bitonti, and is made out of 3,000 individual moving parts that were constructed from selective laser sintering (SLS), where powdered plastic is merged together with lasers. Check out more 3D dresses here — 3D Printed Dresses!

The 3D fashion world does not just stop with dresses. 3D printed shoes made by NIKE and Adidas are turning heads and creating popular attention towards this phenomenon. The truth behind 3D printing in the art and fashion world is that it enables designers to create innovative ideas through techniques and materials that are contrary to traditional manufacturing processes. In the textiles industry, as consumers, we are forced to choose between different sizes of clothing, which can vary from brand to brand. The magic behind 3D printing is that you can create custom-made clothing to perfectly suit your body shape and type. For a second, just imagine if this phenomenon became the norm for the fashion world… we could finally say goodbye to the sizing system and potentially even construct our own new t-shirt or skirt just from the comfort of the 3D printer sitting in the living room.

The major setback for 3D fashion printing so far is the type of materials that can be used to construct clothing from the printer.  When one wakes up of a morning, they don’t envision themselves throwing on a synthetic t-shirt that’s been made from polylactic acid. Dad’s old t-shirt however, that’s been through one too many washes over the years, is more practical as it allows more flexible and breathable movements. Believe it or not, 3D printing wearable fabrics has already been accomplished through a 3D printer that goes by the name ‘Electroloom.’ The developers behind this sensation “set out to build a technology that enables people to design and manufacture clothes from scratch,” with virtually any material such as cardboard, polyester/cotton and vinyl. Ahhh, the future is now! – (I highly recommend you all to watch this video).



For my individual research project, I endeavour to hopefully focus on the successful production of 3D printing fashion from home. Many fashion designers have made 3D fashion that is completely wearable, so it comes to no surprise when more and more people, like myself, start experimenting with it’s diameters. With such an incline in 3D printing comes a huge growth in the range of materials that can be used, stemming from Nylon to silver. However, products such as the Electroloom are costly and are not readily available to the everyday folk… so how can it be possible to 3D print wearable fashion?

The 3D printers in which I can get into contact with use the most popular material used in 3D printing, which is known as PLA (Polylactic Acid), and derives from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane. However, not all printers use such renewable plastic, and with it’s growth being so rapid, data on the recycling of materials used in 3D printing becomes sparse. This is supported by CNBC, where they reported that in July of 2017, the world had produced over 9 billion tonnes of plastic waste since the 1950’s, where only 9% was recycled. With PLA being biodegradable and cost efficient to bulk produce, having the 2nd largest production value of any bioplastic, second to thermoplastic starch, there was no doubt that this is the material I will be experimenting with.

For people who 3D print with materials that are non-biodegradable, there are machines available to recycle used waste. The ProtoCycler and the Filabot are examples of machines that use a grinding process to melt the leftover plastic into reusable filament for 3D printers. However, these again are costly. For my project, I also hope to be able to successfully create my own recycled filament from leftover PLA. By recycling PLA, I wish to create 3D fashion from home that is cost efficient and that can then be recycled into more 3D prints, if not more! Take a look at some examples below:

The way in which I hope to document the process of my research project is through a series of YouTube videos (as shown above). I may also endeavour to adventure into creating an Instagram as a way to shine more attention on this growing phenomenon, and also to relate to people in a different way on a different social media platform, documenting my final products in a series of photos.

So in summary, there are three main points I want to address in my research project… and they are:

  • that 3D printing can be accessible from home and affordable
  • that 3D printing can be recycled into other prints from home after use
  • and that 3D print filament can be made from recycled rubbish/prints

It’s the future now baby…

So without further adieu… let’s get printing!!


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