Dec 23, 2015 | By Tess
3D printed wearables have been making huge waves in the high fashion and design worlds, with designers like Iris van Herpen making astonishing 3D printed garments, and artists creating such innovative pieces as a 3D printed top that is physically affected by the gaze of another. So far, however, we have yet to see 3D printed wearables be available for the average consumer, that is, you cannot simply walk into any department store to pick up the latest in 3D printed clothing. That day, however, might not be as far away as we thought, as UK based Tamicare, the company responsible for Cosyflex, their patented 3D printed textile and production system, have just begun operations on their first production line.
Tamicare’s founders, Tamar and Ehud Giloh, who started the company in 2001 and patented their idea for Cosyflex in 2005, worked for over ten years to develop their 3D printed textile and printing system. In 2013, they drew attention in the 3D printing world for having developed 3D printed disposable underwear made from their trademark material, and now after having signed a multi million dollar deal with a major sportswear brand, Tamicare is extending its reach into the broader wearables market.
Notably, the Cosyflex system is capable of mass producing 3D printed textiles, as its first production line boasts being able to manufacture up to 3 million items a year. As Tamar Giloh explains, “Our Cosyflex production system allows 3D printing to be used for mass production for the first time ever. Instead of creating items one at a time, Cosyflex enables high volume high density production from a small footprint at costs far below traditional manufacturing processes.”
Additionally, unlike traditional textile manufacturing processes, which are wasteful in terms of material and production steps, Tamicare’s system effectively eliminates material waste, making for a more environmentally sound manufacturing process.
Companies like Nike, and Adidas have themselves been attracted to the potentials of 3D printing their footwear for the environmental reasons explained above, as well as to eliminate production steps in their manufacturing processes. As Tamicare CTO Ehug Giloh explains, “Sports shoes can require over a hundred individual operations during manufacturing, but Cosyflex reduces this to three. The same is true for many other complex designs. This allows companies to produce in one location what previously required a complex global supply chain.”
Cosyflex technology could also have a big impact on smart textiles, as it “allows sensors and wiring to be printed along with the rest of the garment in a single process” rather than having to weave or knit conductive materials into garments or attach them to a finished garment. The potential to additively manufacture conductive textiles is a huge step in smart wearables, where the garment essentially becomes the device.
For the development of smart textiles, Tamicare researchers have been working in collaboration with Tim Harper, a tech entrepreneur specializing in smart textiles and graphene, a strong, conductive, and nearly transparent material that has shown great promise for applications in several fields. For textiles, the inclusion of graphene could mean not only smart and reactive garments but also strong and lightweight materials which could revolutionize footwear and personal protection equipment.
“The Cosyflex system builds a garment layer by layer,” explains Tim Harper. “Any one of those layers can be textile, polymer, latex or printed electronics allowing us complete freedom in the way we design smart textiles.”
The potentials of the new technology are huge, as garments could be made cost effectively and sustainably with any number of different materials in their fabric. Specifically, this could mean big advancements in such areas as athletic footwear, wound care, activewear, underwear, hygiene products, automotive textiles, and smart textiles. Cosyflex, which was under development for ten years and remained relatively quiet in the media is now here, and we expect to hear much more about the emerging 3D printed textile technology, especially as Tamicare is expected to made licensing deals with major brands in the textile and fashion industries.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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