3D Printing Technology in Fashion Industry
Shubham Anil Jain
Department of Textiles (Fashion Technology)
DKTE’S Textile and Engineering Institute, Ichalkaranji, India
Intern at Textile Learner
3D printing technology is considered as one of the most emerging and significant technologies of the fourth industrial revolution in many of the industries, and the fashion industry is also included in it. Many industry experts have predicted that the medical, aviation, aircraft, fashion and consumer goods industries will see tremendous increases in the adoption of 3D printing technology. Due to the advancement in technical possibilities in 3D printing and 3D scanning make developments possible that will give drastic change in production and trade in the fashion and textile industry. Nowadays, the use of 3D printers in the textile and fashion industry is gaining attention since designers and clothing producers discovered the importance and benefits of 3D printing technology. They can use this technology to create or design fantastic 3D printed fashion with the help of different shapes and geometries which were never made before, but they can also prototype and it makes the sustainable clothing production process.
Practical Aspects of 3D Printers in Fashion
In a more day-to-day application, one can use 3D printing technology in fashion to design accessories, build prototypes and manufacturing tools, boost towards sustainability efforts, and expand customization options.
1. 3D Printed Fashion Accessories:
Instead of doing 3D printing on the full items of the clothing, 3D printers in fashion can be used to support the different parts of a whole design, like embellishments, accessories, and buttons. Small end use accessories can be easily integrated in just few minutes using 3D printing. Such materials with very good and flexible nature, as TPU, can be used to add precious pieces or unique embellishments onto the garment themselves. 3D printing is also helpful when creating and analyzing costume jewellery with complex geometric shapes and design.
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2. Prototyping and Tooling:
The two of the most common uses of professional 3D printers in manufacturing are creating prototypes and tools, and the fashion industry is no exception to this. Camper, which is a popular Spanish shoe manufacturing company, uses BCN3D printers to build different prototypes and concept models for each new shoe collection they create or design. Generally, they used to outsource the production of these models, but this adds more costs and time to the overall design manufacturing process. Now, with the evolution of many 3D printers in-house, their designers can get a much better understanding of the volumes and shapes of their designs.
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3D printers allows designers to take more design risks, since they can quickly assess and visualize the viability of their designs. Prototyping different design repetitions in this way allow designers more time and state of freedom to come up with new innovative designs.
3. Achieve Sustainability:
3D printing technology in the fashion world also gained more popularity for sustainable fashion, as more designers and brands are beginning to seek their attention towards sustainable methods to create their collections. A great example of this is the innovative step which is taken by Spanish fashion brand ZER. They use additive manufacturing process throughout their designing and creation process to become a sustainable force in the fashion industry. They uses various 3D printers to design their specific patterns and then print only the amount of product which they needed. This allows them to cut back on wasting resources for each garment, and ensures that their manufacturing process is not destroying to the environment.
Finally, Fashion 3D printing opens the doors to new opportunities when it comes to customization options. Brands can begin to produces different pieces based on the consumer’s specific requirements or body parts. The German based sportswear company Adidas has been experimenting with such concept from 2015. Using running data from many athletes, they have designed a shoe that provides the optimal fit for any runner during sport. They continue the experiment with different repetitions and modifications of this 3D printed shoe today.
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Most Innovative 3D Printed Fashion Pieces
In the last few years, 3D printing technologies have totally integrated into the fashion industry, particularly the haute couture sector, to offer more creation innovation in designs. From shoes to dresses, the application of 3D printed fashion is greatly different from conventionally or traditional manufactured clothes. Each design seems to be more unique, personalized, and sustainable. This is yet another key reason as to why 3D printing is interesting for this sector. Here, are the review of some of the most innovative 3D printed fashion pieces.
1. Annie Foo’s 3D Printed Shoes:
Annie Foo is a very popular designer, known for high-end shoes who utilizes 3D printing technologies in the manufacturing process of shoes. It is seen that by the combination of conventional footwear manufacturing methods with modern technologies and materials is used to create something new design. The speciality of this is that they uses 3D modelling software, which helps to designed complex shapes to give their shoes an aesthetic look.
2. The Proximity Dress:
A Dutch designer that is Anouk Wipprecht, particularly known for combining new technology and fashion industry to create unique clothing with unexpected features and characteristics. This type of dresses are known as Proximity Dress. This dress is designed in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis, that’s the dress includes different sensors which could be able to detect movement next to the wearer. If it is found that the person gets too close to the wearer of the dress, the dress will expands to create a kind of barrier.
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3. Between 3D Printing and Nature:
As Iris van Herpen, is probably one of the best known 3D printing designers in the fashion industry. She became more popular due to her interest in 3D technologies. She has designed various popular and interesting collections that were presented at various Fashion Week events, such as “Ludi Naturae”, which was a nature-focused collection that included the Foliage dress with 3D printed sheet-like patterns. Using a PolyJet 3D printer, she was able to develop 0.8 mm thick sheets based on tulle. The designer has also focused towards the creation of number of 3D printed shoes in collaboration with the United Nude brand.
4. Julia Daviy’s Zero-waste 3D Printed Skirt:
Since 2017, Julia Daviy has been working in 3D printed fashion, because she was particularly attracted by the freedom it provides in terms of material choice and structure. Just before that she decided to launch her own 3D printed garment, which was the first “Zero Waste” 3D printed personalized skirt. In fact, Julia Daviy proved that the skirt produces less than 1% waste during production process by using recyclable filaments. This was more important to her because she uses 3D printing as the beginning of a new fashion world or era that will allow her to move away from mass production and toward eco-friendly manufacturing, while utilizing the full potential of available materials.
5. VIP TIE:
VIP TIE is an Italian company that is particularly known or famous for 3D printing ties. The objective of the company is to offer fashionable accessories as well as personalized in order to satisfy the needs and desires of the consumers. VIP TIE is made from both luxury and innovative high-tech design. The designing process of just one tie can include mix of several complementary procedures and materials: craftsmanship, embroidery, 3D printing, exotic leather, mother-of-pearl, carbon fiber, silver, gold and silver plated solid. The special features of VIP TIE is that more than 80% of the materials used during manufacturing are 100% environmentally friendly.
Benefits of 3D Printed Fashion
- As we know that, the designer clothing is expensive because it is made to fit one’s body. As couture clothes or designer clothes are rare, unique, and somewhat difficult to obtain. However, 3D printing here plays an important role and can change all of those equations and make custom-designed clothing a mass-market concept.
- 3D printed clothing is environmentally friendly and lead to lesser wastage. When the conventional designing process is considered, there can be huge of textile scraps which lead to wastage. Dyes used to color fabrics is a major sources of water pollution.
- As we know that, for manufacturing textiles and fabrics, plenty of water is needed as well as air pollution is also a major issue in textile producing giants like China. So here, 3D printing can address a lot of those issues.
- the most important benefit 3D printed fashion is that it allows designers to innovate faster, due to which the lead times can get reduced drastically.
- For big companies, 3D printing serves as a transformative in terms of speed to market and supply chain. Garments or any accessories can be printed within 24 hours. Because of which the rate of change of styles has increased over the years and the lifespan of various seasonal collections has decreased over the years.
- The ability to bring new styles to stores becomes very quick and efficient. 3D printing allows the speed and efficiency which is needed to succeed in this evolving industry.
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Drawbacks of 3D Printing in Fashion
- No technology or any advancement comes without its limitations. Copyright is considered as one of such issue. Similar to music and movie piracy, in the same way design file piracy can also affect the fashion industry. Illegal using of designs for fashion items can hurt the original creator of the design.
- Authenticity is also considered as major issue that could affect consumers.
- Due to the rise in 3D printing technology, loss of manufacturing jobs in the fashion manufacturing industry has become major issue. As the whole concept of 3D printing is less labor-intensive and more focused towards the machine-intensive. So, the replacement of cheap human labor with machines will results in the losses of jobs in certain parts of the world.
- Quality control can also become a major issue if people are going to print their personal items. Big brands generally spend millions of dollars to make sure that the quality of the product, certain important features, and the brand image of the company remain same and resistant to changes.
- With each person having access to the design of the fashion item, certain parts can be injured. Managing and controlling the end design could become a major challenge for companies. And even if the design isn’t changed, there is no correct way to prove that the actual 3D printing process is done right.
Future of 3D Printing Technology
It clearly seems that the 3D printed clothing has numerous benefits. Fashion designers and architects uses 3D printers to make jewellery, accessories, and clothing which requires some time and money into learning various modelling software. Once 3D printing becomes common to all, there could be a situation where anyone can simply and easily use it with different features such as easily downloadable patterns and print clothes right in their homes. There may not be required to produce garments and fashion items in low-cost countries. There could also be number of shops and stores which will be available, where anyone can walk-in and 3D print their fashion items. Nowadays, many well-known fashion institutes and fashion design schools around the world have 3D printers on their campuses. Due to its requirement, they are also offering many courses in the field of 3D printed fashion.
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Seeing today’s scenario, the advancement in technical possibilities in 3D printing and 3D scanning make developments possible that will have potential to revolutionize production and trade in the fashion and textile industry. It seems to be clothing and shoes will soon be coming out of the 3D printer in a customized way, it will leads to new possibilities which will open up for functional textiles, and 4D printing and will take the 3D process to a new level with innovative applications. Not only 3D printing but 3D technology itself is modifying the entire value chain in the clothing industry from design and prototyping to the finished product and its delivery time. The 3D visualization makes the creation of the collection faster, more accurate and more cost-effective which is very important for any industry. If the prototype production is shortened, idle times and waiting times are eliminated and variants are possible at any time, this gives the company more flexibility and enables it to react much faster to new trends and attract the customer towards product. So overall, the emergence of 3D printing technology in fashion industry has proved good for the betterment of the industry and has very good scope in future.
- 3D Printing Technology, Applications, and Selection, by Rafiq Noorani, Loyola Marymount University.
- 3D Printing Technology: Its application and scope in Fashion Industry, by Mahesh Shaw, January 2016.
- 3D printing for clothing production, Journal of Engineered Fibers and Fabrics 15(3), by tatjanaspahiu, August 2020.
- https://www.forbes.com/sites/herbertrsim/2017/12/03/3d-printing-in-luxury-fashion-revolution-or-evolution/ , 3D Printing In Luxury Fashion: Revolution Or Evolution? Accessed: 10 August, 2021,
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.