The Rise of 3D Printing in Fashion

3D printing directly on to textiles

The Rise of 3D Printing in Fashion


The role of 3D printing in fashion is continually evolving, with a notable increase in awareness and interest in the technology from designers. This growth in curiosity is coming from across the fashion spectrum – from high-end fashion to the low-end, and in various fashion applications.

One of the key factors for this is education. Many academies are now integrating 3D printing within their education programmes. High fashion has previously had a traditional methodology, so the notion that fashion education is now embracing these innovative technologies is an encouraging step forward.

Educating a new generation of designers, and introducing 3D printing technologies and software to all the parties involved in fashion creation, is naturally a gradual and ongoing process. This might explain why the shift in the industry is, perhaps, not immediately apparent widespread in mainstream fashion, but is likely to emerge in the not so distant future.

3D printing permits fashion designers to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of design, allowing them to turn some of the most challenging design concepts into reality. We are seeing an evolution from traditional textile production methods, such as pattern-cutting and sewing textiles together, towards a textile being totally 3-dimensionally grown.</p> <p>Digitally-created materials are offering up vast possibilities in terms of enabling sophisticated physical properties to be embedded in specifically defined areas of a textile. For example, you can create a specific textile that is waterproof, opaque, flexible or rigid and then combine these elements together, meaning that these properties can all be present in a single garment.</p> <p>Without the need for a specific mold, designers are free to create intricate geometries and structures, which are not only aesthetically pleasing, but can add smart functionality. For example, when we create a garment that needs to be held together, instead of using traditional buttons we can integrate this locking functionality directly into the textile itself, by making certain areas adhesive. We’re still in the early stages of developing our geometrical understanding and working out what is feasible, but the possibilities are vast.

The future of 3D printing in fashion

People sometimes mention the notion of 3D printing reaching the mass-market, but we know that caution must be taken when considering the implications of mass-market solutions. Ultimately, we hope that the fashion world returns to a more sustainable model, which involves more localized production, allowing smaller design and production houses to compete in the market. Nevertheless, it will be fascinating to witness the evolving impact of 3D printing on the fashion domain and to see how it continues to challenge and transform our perception of fashion.

In a world of constant technological advancements, fashion can also be considered as a key vehicle for demonstrating the vast capabilities of 3D printing for design in other sectors – whether it be consumer goods, automotive, aerospace or others. Not everybody can connect with technology when it derives from a very particular niche market. However, fashion opens up a new way of relating to technology and allows greater participation.