Mar. 6, 2015 | By Kira

As 3D printing technology advances, manufacturers are experimenting with new materials, new colors, and unique, nearly limitless combinations of the two. That is exactly what Gruppo Meccaniche Luciani set out to do when they created a six-piece fashion collection that, according to the company, could only have been built with Stratasys’ triple-jetting Object500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D production system.

Gruppo Meccaniche Luciani is a leading footwear moulds manufacturer in Italy that has been producing moulds, socket punches and technical tools for footwear and leather goods since 1969. Their commitment to technical innovation and investments in advanced production systems led them directly to 3D printing. Using rapid prototyping, the company was able to create a line of intricate, complex shoes and fashion pieces that would not be possible by hand or with traditional methods.

“3D printing enables us to offer a new line of items to our clients. We can design and 3D print realistic prototypes in a matter of hours and incorporate any required design iterations before starting full production,” said Elisa Luciani, Sales Manager for Gruppo Meccaniche Luciani. “As we can modify the design and 3D print the revised product the same day, we minimize costs and reduce our turnaround time significantly, while maintaining the highest-quality.”

The line consists of three pairs of stunning shoes, an amour-like bag, an opaque bracelet, and a beautiful yet risqué top, all of which were inspired by curves found in nature, yet with an unexpected, futuristic twist. The collection features vibrant colors and a range of materials, from matte to glossy, hot pink to transparent, and each piece was 3D printed in a single build.

The secret to the unique properties of the fashion line lies in Stratasys’ Connex3 triple-jetting technology, which offers 14 base material options, up to 82 material properties in a single build, material hot-swapping for efficient workflow, and hundreds of two and three-component digital material options, allowing for unmatched versatility.

Stratasys’ Rubber-like PolyJet photopolymers, which simulate rubber with different levels of hardness, elongation and tear resistance, contributed not only to the aesthetics, but also to the structural integrity of each piece; particularly the shoes.  “When designing the shoe we were concerned about the rigidity and resistance of the heels, but the 3D printer’s ability to combine varying densities of rigid and soft material simultaneously, enabled us to manufacture the whole shoe in one print,” said Luciani. Indeed, these Rubber-like materials are perfect for applications such as soft-touch coatings and nonslip surfaces, knobs, grips, pulls, seals, hoses, and of course footwear.

Initially available in gray, black, white, and translucent (the ‘Tango’ family), when used with the Connex3 production system, the Rubber-like materials can also be combined with Rigid Opaque photopolymers(the ‘Vero) family, which are available in cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white. This gives designers the option to incorporate as many as 46 vibrant colors into one 3D model for exceptional final-product realism. 

Aesthetically, the multi-material and multi-color capacities of Stratasys’ system produced eye-catching, stylistically complex and beautiful results—but that’s not all. From the wearer’s perspective, the rubber-like material also contributed to comfort and durability. The women’s top, for example, features varying levels of softness where it directly touches the skin, avoided the typical rigidness of plastic or irritation that could be caused by other stiff materials. The flower-inspired handbag, on the other hand, which displays sharp triangle-shapes, utilized the durability of the Rigid Opaque VeroBlack material for the extreme protection of its contents and to withstand everyday use. “Our main requirement was to produce a highly-detailed, realistic wearable,” said Luciani. “The ability to combine rigid and soft materials simultaneously is unique and would have otherwise entailed manual manufacture and individual assembly of each material.”

Simply being able to move from design to prototype to ready-to-wear fashion piece in a matter of hours will surely change the fashion game—never mind the fact that with 3D printing, companies such as Gruppo Meccaniche Luciani can create previously un-thinkable designs with intricate structures and vibrant colors. We’re just waiting for the day—certainly not too far in the future—when these creations will be available at our local shopping mall.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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