Jan 10, 2017 | By Tess

In recent years we’ve seen our fair share of 3D printed fashion projects, as well as a number of innovative 3D printed braille initiatives aimed at helping the visually impaired in new tactile ways. Rarely, however, have we seen both areas combined, and never in such an inspiring way as this: German fashion designer Babette Sperling has used 3D printing to create a line of stunning, eco-friendly, braille-decorated clothes, which were unveiled this past September at the Mercedes Fashion Night.

Sperling, a fashion design student at the University of Zwickau in Germany, was inspired to create her own collection with 3D printing, so that she could demonstrate a number of things: that 3D printed fashion can be accessible (in terms of the technology), that 3D printed clothes can be practical to wear (and not only for the runway), and that 3D printed clothes can still take sustainability into account.

And while she faced a number of challenges, most notably finding the right eco-friendly materials, Sperling’s collection certainly does showcase the potential of 3D printing for wearable and environmentally conscious fashion. The design concept, in addition to being sustainable, integrates braille directly into the clothing, making for garments that are not only visually textured, but also possess, in their material, a message. This feature was included so as to give the wearer an emotional connection to the clothing, something that is often lacking in the fast-fashion culture.

To integrate the braille embossments, Sperling was determined to 3D print plastic directly onto the clothing’s fabric using an FDM 3D printer, which required much research and a lot of trial and error. To help in the experiments, the young designer enlisted the help of the Fab Lab Dresden, and together they tested roughly 15 different material combinations (both filaments and fabrics) to see which would be best. Finally, after many failed or inadequate tests, Sperling came across BioInspiration, a Berlin-based startup that develops flexible 3D printing filaments made from compostable raw materials.

BioInspiration, which came into being with the help of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, has already partnered with such initiatives as SLEM (to create biodegradable 3D printed shoes), and previously caught our attention with its eco-friendly 3D printed Star Wars toys.

Upon hearing from Sperling, the company was eager to use its materials for sartorial purposes and proposed using its popular, fully compostable WillowFlex filament for the task. After testing the filament, Sperling was more than happy to see that it adhered well to such natural fabrics as cotton and silk. In the end, WillowFlex was used not only to 3D print braille directly onto the fabrics, but was also used to create custom-sized buttons for the garments.

“I am very happy that I discovered a 3D print filament that allows itself to integrate so seamlessly into my fashion design,” commented Sperling. “The certification of the raw material for compostability according to US and EU standards (EN 13423) fits perfectly into my concept for a full-circle sustainable product design that enables clothing that can return to nature after their lifecycle. WillowFlex proved itself as compatible for use in all the 3D printers that we used in our testing process (Ultimaker, Flashforge, and Makerbot).”

As mentioned, Sperling’s collection was presented at the Mercedes Fashion Night, where it received much positive feedback and even took home the Audience Choice Award. According to the designer, she is already planning more pieces that will integrate the compostable 3D printing material.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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