In the future we could be both better and more uniquely dressed, thanks to the development of a 3D fabric printer; the first of its kind.
Although not yet ready for large-scale production, the Electroloom is an exciting prospect, enabling its users to design and print seamless clothing that perfectly fits their frame.
The printer, which is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter and looks set to comfortably exceed its goal, uses a technique called field-guided fabrication to produce garments.
This takes the form of a CAD-developed 3D mold placed inside the printer, which the printer deposits solid fibres onto, building up the final garment.
The fibres themselves are shipped as a liquid solution, but the printer converts them using an electrospinning process, before guiding them onto the mold using an electric field.
Surprisingly, the team behind Electroloom say the fibres are a custom polyester/cotton blend, although presumably there are some additional elements that enable it to to be shipped in a liquid form.
At present, the printer doesn’t exactly pose a threat to the mainstream fashion industry. The garments that the Electroloom team have used to demonstrate its capabilities – a shirt, a tank top and a beanie – are all plain and fairly unfinished looking, and the device is targeted at makers rather than fashionistas.
However, this very early days. The 3D fabric printer is currently being offered through Kickstarter as an alpha developer kit, priced at $5,000, and it will be very interesting to see how it is used by developers when they get their hands on it.
On the campaign page the team also highlight that there will be later versions of the printer based in how the first version is received.
“Electroloom is still in its infancy; we’ve only been working on the technology for about a year and a half,” the team said.
“This dev kit launch with our alpha units is so that we can start to open a feedback loop outside of our own team.”
Future additions are likely to include additional fabric colours – makers using the first version will need to dye the fabric themselves once they’ve made their garment – and fabrics, with the Electroloom team already working on experimental silk and acrylic blend alternatives.
Assuming their first version is well received and improved, future versions could have a profound impact on the way we dress.
Standardised clothing sizes leave many people stuck with ill-fitting garments and generic, carbon copy styles. but a 3D clothing printer could enable people to wear clothes that fit perfectly and designed to their own personal tastes.
If a device such as this were to become common, it would transform what we wear for the better, prompting currently impossible fashions to become common, and making stylish, well-fitting clothing within the reach of the masses.