Dec 20, 2015 | By Benedict

Although 3D printing is currently making waves in the fashion industry, most 3D printed objects do not look or feel like they could be comfortably worn. Most are solid and unbending, due to their plastic or metal composition. But what if 3D prints, even those made from hard materials, could be precisely engineered to provide a certain degree of flexibility? The implications would be significant for 3D printed clothes, shoes and much more besides. Ben Kromhout and Lukas Lambrichts, two students on the Technologies for Concept Design (TfCD) course at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, have come up with a novel method for 3D printing flexible materials. Whilst recognizing the possibility of 3D printing “hard and soft” material using expensive, industry standard 3D printers, the duo sought to produce a similar effect using an affordable consumer level 3D printer—an Ultimaker 2, to be precise.

To produce a flexible yet sturdy material using a basic 3D printer, the students were initially inspired by an Instructables project which detailed how to create double curved wood. That project used precise patterns to optimize its material, and the Delft students tried to replicate that method to create a flexible 3D printed material. To translate the wood pattern into a 3D printable design, the team used Illustrator and SolidWorks, creating several prototypes of the flexible material at a variable scale.

The prototypes each featured two variables, both of which would be altered incrementally to test the flexibility of the material. The scale of the pattern and the open space between the lines of the pattern were each varied in the unique 3D printing experiment, with the surface thickness remaining constant to isolate the two variables. In total, four combinations of the two variables were implemented: Model 1 used small iterations of the pattern with small gaps; Model 2 used small patterns with larger gaps; Model 3 used large patterns with small gaps, and Model 4 used large patterns with larger gaps.

The exact dimensions for the models were:

- Total size: 95mm x 95mm

- Space size: 0,7mm and 0,35mm (before scaling)

- Scale: 1:1 and 1:1,36 (19 and 14 squares)

- Thickness: 1mm

The students encountered some problems when 3D printing Models 1 and 3, which used smaller gaps between the lines of the pattern. The 3D printer, with its limited resolution, was unable to fully separate each side of the intricate gaps. Kromhout and Lambrichts found Model 4 to be the most flexible—that with the largest iterations of the pattern and the widest gaps. The students reported the material of this model to have an almost textile-like feel.

The 3D printing experiment produced some interesting results, but conclusions were limited due to the small number of models printed. The duo managed to demonstrate that a flexible material could be 3D printed in hard PLA using an affordable 3D printer, but the inflexibility of the smaller scale models meant that no definite conclusions could be drawn about the precise correlation between scale and flexibility. The students hope that their findings will be built upon by others, in order to widen the material possibilities afforded by 3D printing technology.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Xoan wrote at 12/23/2015 9:31:45 AM:

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