Jan 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Ray Kurzweil, a machine learning expert at Google, has predicted that 3D printed clothing will experience a surge in popularity over the next decade. The expert says the growing number of 3D printable materials and easy-to-use CAD applications will act as catalysts for the trend.

Ray Kurzweil, noted futurist, thinks 3D printed clothing will take off (AP Photo / Russel A. Daniels)

It’s hard to predict the future, but some people are better at it than others. Take Ray Kurzweil, for example, a noted “futurist” who predicted the rise of smartphones, cloud computing, and self-driving cars. (He also said that we would be wearing computers in our sunglasses by 2010, but never mind that.) Now, Kurzweil has a new prediction, and one that should come as exciting news to fans of 3D printing and fashion. Taking into account a number of new 3D printable materials, as well as a growing interest in design amongst non-professionals, the futurist has forecast a massive rise in 3D printed clothing over the next decade.

Speaking at The New York Times Global Leaders’ Collective conference a month ago, Kurzweil explained his vision: “As the variety of materials available to print in 3D become more extensive and less expensive, both free open-source and proprietary clothing designs will be widely available online in as little as 10 years,” he said. “By 2020 there will be a whole host of products available immediately to buy for pennies on the dollar and to print straight away. It will become the norm for people to have printers in their homes.”

Designer Iris van Herpen has created a number of 3D printed dresses

3D printing has already been used to produce clothing in a number of places—although most examples have so far been found either on the catwalk or the running track. Reputable designers like Michael Schmidt, Francis Bitonti, Iris van Herpen, threeASFOUR, and Aiman Akhtar have all shown off impressive 3D printed dresses at various fashion events in recent years, while footwear giants like New Balance, Adidas, and Under Armour have tried their hand at creating 3D printed garments for your feet. According to Kurzweil, however, 3D printing could soon be used to create all sorts of items, from socks to scarves.

At present, one of the major obstacles restricting the widespread adoption of 3D printed fashion is the materials involved. Because while you can now 3D print using virtually anything, most materials are rigid, or at least much firmer than, say, cloth. Interestingly, however, some design studios like Nervous Systems have come fairly close to reproducing the effect of flowing fabrics using only 3D printable plastics. Who knows, perhaps some breakthrough in the next 10 years will enable 3D printers to print in materials as soft and flexible as cloth.

Adidas recently unveiled a $333 3D printed running shoe

Another important side of Kurzweil’s vision concerns the availability and usability of CAD software, especially free applications aimed at novices. The futurist believes that the growing availability of easy-to-use programs will prompt a rise in budding fashionistas attempting to design their own garments on their computers or tablets. Once designed, these 3D models could either be printed on 3D printers at home, or (more likely) via online 3D printing bureaus. Of course, the large number of online platforms for sharing 3D printable designs suggests that designers might also upload and share their 3D printable clothes with others, making 3D printed garments much easier to acquire.

While Kurzweil’s suggested timeframe of 10 years might seem short, the potential is certainly there for 3D printed clothing to pick up in a big way.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Ernest wrote at 1/27/2017 1:12:40 PM:

3D printed and still $333! It's supposed to be cheaper with 3D printing..

Jesse wrote at 1/6/2017 4:40:09 PM:

3D printed clothing already exists in the form of automated knitting machines. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNxgo9Z4Lb4 Search: shima seiki

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