3D printing the clothes of the future

2 Image courtesy of Steven Lake

21 April 2016


In collaboration with industry partners, and with input from a major fashion house, a research team at Loughborough University are realising the manufacturing of clothing using additive manufacturing.

3D Fashion, set to run for a year and a half, will see Loughborough University’s Dr Guy Bingham joining forces with global textile giants, the Yeh Group, and could change the way we shop for clothes and footwear for good. Bingham, a Senior Lecturer in Product and Industrial Design, along with his team aims to produce full size, wearable textile garments and footwear, through additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. Advancements in the process have made it possible to produce 3D printed garments directly from raw materials, in a single manufacturing operation.

Speaking in a video about his latest technology, Bingham explained that the fashion and textiles industry is still very much rooted in 19th century technology. “While it has improved in its efficiency and output, it still produces a lot of waste, and we have the opportunity here to radically change how textiles and garments are actually manufactured,” he said.

Textile manufacturing processes currently produce around 1.8 tonnes of material waste every year. That is equivalent to 100 pairs of jeans per UK household, and the 6.3 billion cubic metres of water used to do so is equivalent to each household filling their bathtubs a thousand times over.

A new take on the manufacturing process means that not only does the technology have the potential to reduce waste, labour costs and CO2 emissions, it can modernise clothing production by encouraging localised manufacturing and production.

When discussing the ways his technology could revolutionise clothes shopping, Dr Bingham said, “With 3D printing there is no limit to what you can build and it is this design freedom which makes the technology so exciting by bringing to life what was previously considered to be impossible.

“This landmark technology allows us as designers to innovate faster and create personalised, ready-to-wear fashion in a digital world with no geometrical constraints and almost zero waste material. We envisage that with further development of the technology, we could 3D print a garment within 24 hours.”

Even more impressively, the team envisage combining the process with 3D body scanning, giving a fully tailored fitting experience to customers, and resulting in completely personalised finished garments.

For more information on research into additive manufacturing and technology development at Loughborough University, visit their website.

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