Apr. 8, 2015 | By Alec

One of the best indicators for the growing reputation of 3D printing technology is that is the number of industries that have started exploring its options is growing. And while it might surprise some of you, the fashion industry is currently perhaps the most interested among them. While many are slowly introducing FDM 3D printing into its prototyping laboratories, various clothing producers have already adopted 3D printers as a fashion tool. Just go to any major fashion runway, and chances are you’ll catch a glimpse of 3D printed hats, shoes or accessories.

As student Rachel Nhan from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York illustrates, it has even already become part of fashion curriculum in some schools. She, for one, has used its potential to create a gorgeous neckpiece and matching dress. As the student explained on her own website, she made this dress as part of a second semester course in the first year at the FIT institute. ‘My class’ theme was ‘Mad Max meets the French Court’, which combined Post-apocalyptic grunge with Parisian frivolity. One of my instructors had advised the students to work within their range of skill or “Stick to what you know”. Since my background is in 3D modeling and animation, I focused on incorporating a 3D printed element into my garment.’

In the school’s PrintFX Graphics Lab, the student developed 25 different design ideas, before settling on this design with the help of the class’s critic. ‘She selected the design above (with a few alterations) because she felt it’s combination of swatches and trims were the strongest,’ Rachel explains. The dress itself is a half muslin dress, made from green silk lame and black polyester moire with an artificial feather trim.

But of course the 3D printed neckpiece is what most interests us. This was made and continuously adjusted alongside the dress in AutoDesk Maya, to ensure the two seamlessly matched each other. ‘After the half muslin bodice was draped, I photographed the muslin, mirrored it, and superimposed the digital 3D model I had begun working on in AutoDesk Maya,’ Rachel explains. ‘When presenting the half muslin dress, style tape was used to imply where the 3D model would sit on the form. Following the muslin’s approval, I created a pattern from it and began constructing the garment.’

Continuing work on the 3D model outside of class hours, Rachel designed a model in AutoDesk Maya based on photos she made of the dress. ‘From there, the neckpiece was modeled along the form and then split up into 14 pieces,’ she adds. These were 3D printed by the the PrintFX Lab at FIT, who have an Uprint Stratasys Machine with a 6" x 8" x 6" printing bed standing by. But this was unfortunately not as easy as pressing print, as Rachel had some difficulty with fitting and supporting all different components on the print bed. ‘Many compositions were experimented to find the set up that would require the least amount of support material,’ she revealed.

As this is something that needs to accurately fit a mannequin –and eventually, a model – it is perhaps unsurprising that Rachel was initially unsuccessful; it first trial just did not fit. ‘[But] I quickly learned how to adjust it to the accurate proportions. Some of the interlocking joints between the pieces could not print sharply in the ABS material, which taught me the restrictions of  standard-resolution technologies in comparison to the PolyJet or Powder methods. The joints were sanded down and the pieces joined with a polymer glue instead,’ she explains.

The second iteration was a lot more successful, though she ran out of black ABS filament for the final two pieces. ‘The difference was concealed once the neckpiece was spray painted a glossy black,’ she freely admits. ‘It was very exciting to see the body of the 3D printed neckpiece with the completed dress. The rippled texture of the ABS plastic mimicked the woodgrain-like texture of the moire. I was very happy with the combination of the two patterns and the overall proportions of the garment put together.’

Rachel’s dress and 3D printed neckpiece will be exhibited at the MecklerMedia’s inaugural 3D Print Fashion Show, which is set to be held on April 16 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Rachel, deservedly, is over the moon. ‘It was an unbelievable experience to see 3 months of hard work come together in one moment. I was really excited to see both areas of my education combine into a single product,’ she says. 


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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