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3D Printed Textiles Research

Study of Textile Properties and Kinetic Application Julia Costa Spring 2018

Table of Contents: 02

Original thesis


Description of trials


Initial conclusions/next steps


Applications of wearability

09-10 Conclusion


Original Thesis: 3D Printing has proven itself a useful tool in countless fields, from design to medicine to cinema, and its utility has led it to become one of the most accessible new technologies. As the 3D Printing industry grows, it not only becomes an integral part of the workflows of many companies, it also becomes popular among individuals who want to explore the craft. Personal printers of a relatively low cost allow the technology to be taken out of the workplace and into the home. Since 3D Printing has captured the interest of industrial designers, furniture makers and architects, it’s only natural that it should infiltrate the fashion industry as well. Fashion designer Danit Peleg explores the application of 3D printing in the readyto-wear context, while Iris Van Herpen’s work is focused on fashion as an art and the creation of innovative forms. Through observation of each of their respective collections, it is evident that a balance must be struck between rigidity and flexibility, and consequently degrees of density, when utilizing this technology in the fashion industry. While Peleg’s work is wearable and appears comfortable, the mesostructure she uses reveals the body underneath. Conversely, Van Herpen’s work compromises comfort for density and results in wearable sculpture. I’d like to investigate this relationship between flexibility and density. Without using a flexible filament, how can I maximize coverage without betraying wearability? The argument of whether or not this technology even wants to behave in a flexible manner is of relevance to this study. As a precedent, 3D printing has been used to create rigid products. With the goal of flexibility in mind, does this betray the inherent nature of the process or does it simply open up a new application or further understanding of its capabilities? In order to answer this question, I’ll first study the mesostructures available to download on the Internet. After printing them, I can explore their tangible characteristics to inform my next print. From there, I’ll either adapt the downloaded structure or start designing my own. I will continue to refine the structures in accordance with my goal of achieving maximum density without sacrificing flexibility. I predict that my early studies will easily achieve this goal, while later ones will prove more difficult. I think that as material is added to the structure, it may only flex along one axis instead of in all directions. I also predict that structures of different shapes and thicknesses will have different properties. Some shapes will stretch on a diagonal, some in one direction and some not at all. In addition, the thicker the structure becomes, the less flexible it will be. As for the outcome, based on my understanding of the behaviors of different fabrics, I think that the optimal structure will cover about 75-80% of an area and be of medium flexibility.


Trial_01: Case Study This trial was downloaded from the Internet ( MakeAnything). It was interesting to study its properties in conjunction with trials 2 and 3. Unlike the two mesostructures, this structure more closely resembled chain mail, as each component was literally linked together like a chain with a short bridge. This joining system allows the structure to easily be linked to other swatches to create a larger textile, however it creates an undesirable appearance on the back side. Not only was the resulting surface unsightly, it was also rough to the touch and did not handle complex curves as seamlessly as the other side. Pros: durable; system easily modified to form connections, terminations, etc Cons: relatively rigid; components tangled or slid out of place easily; no stretch Trial_02: Case Study This trial was downloaded from the Internet ( thing:289650). In contrast to trial 1, this structure behaves much more like a single object, rather than many linked together. As a result of its uniform nature, it drapes well, handles complex curves seamlessly, and stretches in all directions. It also lays smoothly and comfortably against the skin. However, it’s major downfall is that it is too delicate to be used in clothing. Not only does this trial break very easily, it is also mostly see-through. The triangle/hexagon tessellation is effective for movement, but must be adapted to provide appropriate coverage and durability. Pros: fantastic stretch in all directions; easily bends around complex curves Cons: fragile, easily broken; not dense enough to provide adequate coverage Trial_03: Case Study This trial was downloaded from the Internet ( thing:289650). Out of the three structures I chose to study first, this one was by far the most effective in achieving my goals for this project. It bends well around complex curves, and is dense enough so that only shadows can be seen from behind it. Since the underlying logic is based around a tiled equilateral triangle, it also stretches, compresses and expands well in all directions. It is because of these qualities that I decided to expand the structure to observe how its properties may or may not change at a larger scale. Pros: fantastic stretch in all directions; bends around complex curves; good coverage Cons: swatch too small to observe further properties Trial_04: Edited Case Study This trial was informed by the structure of trial 3, but tiled to form a larger sampling. The resulting product behaves very much like a thick piece of fabric. It has significant weight and durability. While it is too thick to drape, I can see it lending itself well to a more structured application in fashion design. It still stretches and bends fluidly, but it does have trouble accommodating acute angles due to the amount of material used to achieve this density. When I wrapped it around my elbow to study its properties, it was clear that it could bend fairly well to accommodate my actual elbow, however a lot of excess material resulted in discomfort and prohibited further movement. Pros: fantastic stretch in all directions; bends around complex curves; good coverage Cons: struggles when applied to a joint such as an elbow


* All prints made on a Maker Gear M2 printer unless otherwise noted

Trial_05: Original Design This was my first attempt at designing my own mesostructure. I chose to apply the logic of the patterning I observed in trials 2 and 3, but to a square instead of a triangle. I hypothesized that stretch and bending would occur in two directions instead of all. Due to an unforeseen layer shift while printing, my original hypothesis was difficult to test specifically, however it was interesting to observe some of the resulting properties of the print. I originally predicted the area affected by the layer shift would be completely rigid, however it was able to retain minimal flexibility despite the disruption in its logic. The shift also made the structure much more stable and durable overall. Pros: durable; greatest amount of density/coverage Cons: relatively rigid; only bends in two directions, no stretch Trial_06: Original Design This trial was a second attempt at printing my original mesostructure. We decided to use a glass print bed instead. While this made it more difficult for the fragile structure to adhere to the printing surface (hence the fraying edges), the resulting print was smooth and glossy. Unfortunately we had to stop the print early because it was not bonding to the bed, however this study did yield some important results. First, because the structure is so thin, it bends virtually inhibited around all curves and stretches in all directions. It is also very smooth and appealing to the touch. Lastly, despite its seeming fragility, it is surprisingly durable and withstands extreme curves. Pros: stretches in all directions, accommodates curves seamlessly, comfortable Cons: inadequate coverage Trial_07: Original Design This trial was the third iteration of my original mesostructure. We decided to switch back to the original bed and clean the it with alcohol to ensure the best conditions for the structure to bond to the bed. Because I purposefully drew the lines closer together than those in trials 3 and 4, I also allowed the structure to bond to itself while printing. Even after breaking apart as many of the joints as possible, the structure was still incredibly rigid and only bent in limited areas. As a result, it behaved like several surfaces joined together rather than a single unit. Despite these shortcomings, it did stretch in two directions as I originally predicted. Pros: good coverage, stretch in two directions Cons: difficult to print, had to be broken apart to achieve movement Trial_08: Original Design This trial was the fourth iteration of my original mesostructure. We changed some settings on the printer to allow it to print slower and cooler. It was very interesting to see how these simple changes made a big difference in the resulting product. While still not perfect, the structure did not bond to itself nearly as badly as the previous attempt. It stretched better in both directions, and even began to expand at a 45 degree angle. While it still bends only along the lines of symmetry between the squares, it achieves greater flexibility and begins to handle the complex curvature of a knee. Pros: good coverage, stretches in 2+ directions, starts to address complex curves Cons: had to be broken apart, all considerations could be improved


Trial_09: Original Design This trial was our last iteration of my original mesostructure. Printed even more slowly and cooler than the last iteration, this structure exhibited the greatest promise in movement and stretch. Unfortunately, when compared to trial 4, it was clear that it still provided some limitations in movement. While trial 4 could bend along the X and Y axes simultaneously, trial 9 could only bend in one direction at a time. Furthermore, while trial 4 could stretch uniformly in all directions, this trial could stretch well in two directions and exponentially better in the remaining directions. I concluded that the reason for this disparity between prints stemmed from the underlying tessellation. Pros: durable; stretches and bends well Cons: trade-off in movement (i.e. bend in one direction at a time) Trial_10: Original Design This was a second attempt at an original mesostructure. Since I had been focusing on the tessellation as a driving factor in the outcome of the project, I decided to study the practicality of using a pattern that incorporated multiple shapes. While fairly simple to print, I was not pleased with the resulting structure. It bends well, however not uniformly. The shapes that make up the pattern retained their geometry and most of the flexibility occurred at the areas between the shapes. Furthermore, it stretches well, however differently depending on which area you pull on. While this print has merit from an purely aesthetic perspective, it is not the best solution to my concerns. Pros: visual variation in pattern, stretches and bends well Cons: inadequate coverage, non-uniform movement Trial_11: Original Design This trial is my third (and currently last) custom mesostructure. I decided to use the hexagonal tessellation that appeared to be the most successful according to the results from earlier trials. I achieved similar density and stretch to trials 3 and 4, however degree of flexibility remains inconclusive due to the limited size of the swatch. From what I can tell, this pattern handles complex curves well, but perhaps not as well as trial 4. Some areas bend inconsistently from their neighboring units however a larger print would be more indicative of these properties. Pros: stretch and density appear satisfactory, degree of flexibility is promising Cons: swatch too small to observe further properties Trial_12: Original Design This trial is an expansion on my third iteration of a custom mesostructure. It was printed on a Type A Series I printer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sharp points that were forming on the small swatch did not pose an issue on the performance of the larger version. From studying trials 5-9, it was clear that there is a direct relationship between the thickness (or thinness) of a mesostructure and its ability to bend, stretch, fold, and handle complex curves. Because of this conclusion, I decided to print this large print with a thickness of 2mm. The result is a fabric like structure that drapes with gravity and folds. Pros: flexible, conformable, folds along both concave and complex curves


Initial Conclusions/Next Steps: The study so far has reaffirmed many of my original concerns, yet it has shifted my focus in some respects. Flexibility and stretch have remained integral to the entire exploration. I have found that the more uniform a pattern is, the more comfortable it feels against the skin. A uniform pattern also yields more successful results in its flexibility and stretch. However, if applied over a joint, the thickness of the print becomes very important when dealing with sharp acute angles, thus compromising coverage. For the most part, the thicker a structure was printed, the denser it appeared, yet the less effective it became in navigating a concave curve. While coverage is still an important concern should I decide to create a full garment in the future, for the application I have chosen to explore next it may not be as useful. Moving forward, I have decided to study the practicality of practicality of printing garments 2D versus 3D. When printed 2D, I predict there are certain affordances, yet still some drawbacks. I hypothesize that the 2D pattern will yield predictable flexibility, stretch and density (since I will be basing it off of trial 12), however the major concern lies within the joint between pieces. Unlike a fabric that can be stitched together, a mesostructure must be bonded with a 3D printing pen, or previous considerations for a closure must be made during the initial design period. I wonder if the joint will weaken the overall structure, or if it will add a significant amount of matter, therefore reducing flexibility or stretch. However, my concerns with printing the same product 3-dimensionally are slightly different. While the joint will not be a concern because I will be attempting to print on solid piece, the logistics of printing such a piece are challenging. Due to the nature of the mesostructure I have chosen to use to further this study, I’m unsure if the 3D printer can handle the amount of bridges required to print such a piece. Since it cannot print in mid air, I’m wondering if this study can even be completed on the technology available here at the moment. I can see it being possible on a printer with a dissolvable support structure (similar to how the kinematic dress was printed). As I think back to my original question of the application of 3D printing in the fashion industry, my thoughts on the matter are becoming more clear. Should I be successful in creating a print modeled in 3D, I believe that the agency in this outcome is far more important than that of printing a 2D structure and folding it into a 3D shape. Printing in 3D could eliminate the need for seams all together, which would be revolutionary in the fashion industry. While I still have questions about the practicality of 3D printing clothes, I am beginning to see the affordances of the tool, if used properly.


2D Sleeve Print: This study focused on the application of trial 12 over a joint. The behavior of the structure did not yield very many surprises, however it was very interesting to observe how it stretched over different parts of the body. The knee was particularly noteworthy because you could clearly observe the resulting gradient of degrees of stretch throughout the ‘fabric.’ The structure also felt smooth against the skin and did not pinch when folded tightly. However, without a method of closure, the swatch could not form a complete sleeve. It was possible to test it against both the exterior and interior curves of an elbow or knee, although not at the same time. I wonder if tested further, whether or not this new condition of simultaneous curvature would present a new line of challenges. The closure itself is also another challenge that could be worked out. Since I hope to eventually apply this technology to a garment, due to the limiting sizes of most 3D printers, this is definitely something that should be worked out. Pros: stretched well over complex curves, drapes with gravity Cons: without a closure, more complex studies were difficult to conduct


3D Sleeve Print: This print proved incredibly difficult to make. The original motivation for printing a mesostructure in a way different from flat on a bed was to explore the idea for eliminating a seam. If an entire “tube� could be printed at once, the overall product would be much more consistent throughout and the question of connections would be eliminated (or at least reduced). However, since our 3D printers rely on each previous layer in order to extrude a print up (this one was printed on a Type A Series I printer), printing in mid air is next to impossible. Unfortunately, the support structure made it very difficult to evaluate the successes and failures of this print. Separating the desired bits from the support was very difficult, and ended up destroying the fragile mesostructure in the process. The image on the bottom right of this page shows the hypothetical 3D print. Perhaps a different type of printer would allow such a structure to be printed, but with the ones currently available, it is much more effective to print the structures flat and then bend them into their final 3-dimensional form. Pros: mesostructure appears to have printed well around a geometry other than a flat plane Cons: support structure eliminates wearability and utility


Conclusion: This study has yielded many interesting results, yet even more questions. At the start of this project, I was hoping to create a complete dress. However, when creating a garment, it is very important to understand your textile of choice. Since 3D printing is still a relatively unapproached concept in the fashion industry, a study of the limits and affordances of the tool was much more important to research. As the 3D printing technology continues to advance, it is becoming easier and more affordable to use and own a personal printer. Similar to how you can download many pre-made files online now, I could see designers offering downloadable versions of their designs to a home printer. However, there are a few major challenges with this otherwise very accessible scenario. First, as I was exploring with the 2D and 3D printed sleeves, it is clear that the question of closure is important to consider. As previously discussed, the idea of printing something without a seam all together could be an innovative introduction to the field. However, as demonstrated in the results of the final print attempt, to create a hollow object with the mesostructure as its surface, a lot of support structure is necessary to complete the print. This not only changes the tactile qualities of the surface, but also easily ruins the print as it’s separated from the support. Perhaps on a different type of printer this method would be more approachable, however on a traditional printer the idea is impossible. The 2D print sleeve comparison trial was more promising. The question of closure is still present, however I believe the properties of the prints would be better preserved if this method was followed up on. Presently, I see two possible ways to resolve this challenge. First, it may be possible to join sheets with a 3D pen or glue. While I think these seams would be rather flush and continuous with the other pieces making up the larger assembly, I am unsure if the average person wanted to make use of the technology would have the interest, supplies, or even the ability to manually complete the process at home. This solution would probably be a good application for designers interested in creating runway or editorial looks instead. The other method of closure I’d like to explore is designing a hook or some other type of clasp that would allow the print to interlock with itself. If refined properly this idea may lay flat, however I think it could lose some flexibility since the material would be doubled up along the seams. Overall, I believe this initial research can serve as the foundation for several later studies that could add an interesting dimension to the exploration. While I focused on the question of closure in this discussion, I have also considered many questions of various different scales as follows:


How would a closure be designed? What types of printers work the best with both the 2D and 3D methods of construction? How would a different type of filament or material change the properties of the mesostructures? How could this technology become accessible by someone with a household 3D printer? Would the product be a simple file you download with clear instructions on assembly or would it require a higher level understanding of the engineering behind both garment creation and 3D printing? What types of garments would be most practical to create? Would this method lend itself better to tops, bottoms, separates, dresses, jumpsuits, outerwear, shoes...etc.? Which styles of clothing design would best accept the technology? Would people be interested in buying it? Who is the consumer? Is it celebrities, everyday people or a mix of both? What does 3D printing offer to the industry other than an unconventional material? What affordances does the technology have over the traditional needle and thread? How can density be revisited? Would this have an effect in determining potential consumers? As a result of this project, I definitely have a better understanding of the 3D printing process. From initial design in a software program, to adjusting the settings on the machines, to the time that goes into the actual print, I have realized that this technology requires a slightly altered way of thinking in order to use it appropriately and effectively. I believe that there is a lot of promise in its applications in the fashion industry, and should this research continue down the road, I would be very interested in determining what exactly these applications could be and why they are important to research.


3D Printed Textiles Research  
3D Printed Textiles Research