Apr 3, 2017 | By Tess

Last year we covered a story about Boston-based fashion label Ministry of Supply, which was bringing technology into men’s business fashion by way of 3D knitting. At the time, the startup launched its first fifty “3D knitted” blazers, which were notable for being seamless, wrinkle-proof, and even sweat-wicking. Now, Ministry of Supply has debuted its first in-store 3D robotic knitting machine at its Boston flagship location, meaning that customers can now order and customize their 3D printed blazers on the spot.

Ministry of Supply was founded by two MIT graduates, Aman Advaniand and Gihan Amarasiriwardena, who saw the need to create comfortable, activewear-inspired work clothes after wearing restrictive, non-breathable suits themselves.

As Advani explains: “We’re the first generation going to work that grew up [wearing] Nike dry-fit, Under Armour and [all of these] performance technology brands that we take for granted now. So when we showed up for our first day of work and were told we had to wear these super stiff, dry-clean-only, non-breathable, sweat-stain-inducing suits, we just didn’t tolerate it.”

Their solution? To develop 3D printed garments that not only look great but also feature an optimized build, and draw from the temperature regulating materials NASA uses for astronaut suits. To create its innovative pieces (which so far are limited to blazers), Ministry of Supply is using technology developed in partnership with Shima Sheiki, the makers of the first computerized 3D knitting system.

The 3D robotic knitting machine is capable of turning out blazers that are wrinkle-proof, seamless, sweat-wicking, flexible, and even machine washable. Customers at Ministry of Supply’s Boston flagship store will even be able to choose what color they want their blazer to be—picking and combining various different yarns—and can select their preferred cuff and button colors. (The brand is till working on its plan to offer custom-fit blazers.)

Once the order is placed, the in-store 3D knitting machine can get to work, as it is capable of printing a whole garment in about an hour and half. The printing is followed by a few “post-processing” steps, which include setting the fabric and verifying the garment. At the moment, the time it takes to 3D print a blazer is rather restrictive, but Ministry of Supply says its machine can run overnight, which will allow the company to catch up on back orders.

Impressively, the new 3D printer has established Ministry of Supply as one of, if not the first company to 3D print a full, large garment in store. While other clothing companies are exploring the technology and 3D printing smaller accessories such as ties, Ministry of Supply is one step ahead, offering its clients 3D knitted blazers on the spot. Considering the novelty of the technology as well as the suit’s innovative features, the 3D printed garments aren’t overly expensive, retailing for about $345 apiece.

Another notable benefit of the brand’s technology is that it is able to construct garments while cutting back on material waste. That is, while the company’s founders estimate that traditional suit-making processes throw out 35% of the suit’s materials, a 3D knitted suit only generates a few grams of waste, in the form of extra yarn bits. The made-to-order philosophy also helps to reduce waste.

At the moment, Ministry of Supply has nine retail locations, though only one of them features an in-store 3D robotic knitting machine. Ultimately, the brand is hoping to have between 10 and 12 stores, which offer clients a unique retail experience. It might, however, be awhile before 3D knitting machines are installed at all of them, as the heavy equipment (weighing 3,000 lbs) had to be maneuvered into the Boston flagship using an industrial crane.

Installing the 3D printer is a significant part of Ministry of Supply’s plan to grow its brand, as it hopes to ship 100,000 units this year. As Advani explains, he believes his company is at the forefront of a fashion revolution. “We use the analogy that we are chefs who have this incredible oven that no one’s been able to tap into, and it’s our job to figure out how to scale that experience and squeeze the most out of it. We think that in a couple of years, it could be a real part of our supply chain,” he said.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Scottm wrote at 4/3/2017 12:24:36 PM:

How does knitting qualify as 3d printing? You should include potters wheels to.

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