May 5, 2015 | By Alec

It has been obvious for a while that 3D printing technology is taking the fashion world by storm, but as the London-based industrial designer Oluwaseyi Sosanya proves, those fashion statements can do a lot more than simply look good. As you might recall, he developed the very interesting 3D Weaver last year, a machine capable of making very durable 3D structures by combining weaving with 3D printing. While original used to make very fashionable shoes, he is currently investigating possibilities for creating lightweight bulletproof and knife proof clothing with it.

Way back in the summer of 2014, we reported on the very interesting 3D printer he developed. Taking inspiration from England’s strong traditional mechanical weaving history, he developed a machine capable of 3D printing woven patterns for his graduation project at the Royal College of Art. Sosanya's machine essentially weaves together layers of material around metal spikes and at different heights to create 3D shapes. Once the design is woven it can then be dipped in silicone to make it stronger, more durable and just as wearable. ‘With the 3D Weaver, once the first row is layered, the thread maintains its tension, due to guide tubes and an initial winding of the thread programmed to run before the weaving of each structure. I coded a bit of software that allows any solid geometry to be split into layers and woven,’ he explained at the time.

At the time, he created soles for a pair of shoes that not only looked fashionable, but were also very comfortable and customizable. ‘You have all of these opportunities now where you can do customisation around footwear,’ he told reporters from The Guardian. ‘With this [3D printer] you can pre-programme the density. At the ball of your foot, you may want a denser material. Right at the arch of your foot, you might want a softer material. At the heel, you might want a denser material. You can have that in one go. I could press a button on a machine after an algorithm which runs over the ball of your foot and the underside of your foot which tells me the where the densities and the stresses are and it is done in one go.’

Since those shoes, he has been exploring more options for this interesting device and as he is an avid cyclist who wears padding when playing with his BMX, he became intrigued by flexible padding. ‘When you put on the sportswear, you are automatically constrained, some more than others. If you want the maximum protection, it seems like you are restricting movement and performance to some degree,’ he argues.

More problematic, perhaps, is that those cumbersome outfits tend to start falling apart at an alarming rate as the foams are just bad at retaining forms. ‘Pretty much every [foam outfit] has a neoprene on the inside – a nice soft stretchy material on the inside – then layers of foam and then a woven on top, which is very good for not deforming and then a cup-like a hard shell, like kneepads,’ he says. ‘After an athlete is sweating [in] foam, that foam starts to break down. Not all foam can go 100% back to the memory.’

Flexible, lightweight and capable of distributing impacts over a large area.

The materials produced by his 3D Weaver, meanwhile, are far more durable and capable of retaining their form than those traditional materials. They are, in fact, capable of being used to reinforce specific areas of bulletproof vests to ensure flexibility and safety for the wearer, something he is currently discussing with several companies.

 In fact, even the Australian army recently discussed a number of practical applications of the 3D weaver that they feel can add to the safety and comfort of their troops in the field. As they speculated, these 3D printed ‘fabrics’ dipped in silicone could be used to create crumple or absorption zones on armor that distribute impacts and ensure shapes stay intact. In time, they write, it can be used to provide lighter and more durable fabrics for the tiered body armour worn by personnel.

'The durability and reparability of this fabric needs to be considered as cotton may not function well in extreme weather—such as Afghanistan’s hot summers and cold winters, and, as Army articulates its future role in a joint amphibious capability, in wet conditions as well. Perhaps future research is needed to consider using other materials in place of cotton,’ they write on their website. ‘There could also be an opportunity to expand into smart textiles for incidental energy harvesting and individual health monitoring.’

The Australian army further speculates about broader research into these types of intelligent textiles to offer protection against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threats. While it is unsure what type of role Oluwaseyi Sosanya’s 3D Weaver can play in that process, it is very encouraging to see that 3D printing technology can play a key role in increasing the chances for survival of soldiers.



Posted in 3D Printers


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Dan wrote at 5/7/2015 12:09:52 AM:

The weave is not 3D,it is just bonded layers of 2D and even they are not actually woven so the structure relies on the glue to transfer forces rather than fully utilising the tensile strength of the fibres to do so.

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