Research Question:

How can traditional textile processes be rethought through 3D printing?

Aim of Research;

The aim of the research is to rethink and develop traditional textile processes and structures, such as knit, weave and print and consider how these could be interpreted through 3D printing while preserving the original aesthetics traditional textiles lend themselves to.

3D printing could reinvent our relationship with clothing and textiles, challenging production in terms of ecology, sustainability, consumption, fast fashion and mass production, and will be considered as a key development towards democratic manufacturing and design. By enabling the “printing” of clothes to order, manufacturing could be reconfigured. At the moment such products do not stand up to the design and quality that required for commercially viability, although materials are being developed at a rapid pace. Could the 3D printer eventually be as important as the domestic sewing machine?

I will examine the potential of current 3D desktop printing through the lens of a textile designer. Using my skills as a textile design practitioner with experience in the creation of high fashion fabrics I will reinvent and develop new iterations of traditional textile processes using 3D desktop printers, such as lacemaking, embroidery and surface pattern, etc. Modifications of both the machine and the materials are envisaged and the specification of these will contribute to a democratised desktop manufacturing model with clear implications for the circular economy.

I propose to address these questions through studio-based and thesis study. In research and collaborations with other designers, I intend to develop my own 3D printed textiles and interrogate the issues surrounding the challenges of 3D printing in textiles.

I propose to address these questions through studio-based and thesis study. In research and collaborations with other designers, I intend to develop my own 3D printed textiles and interrogate the issues surrounding the challenges of 3D printing in textiles.

The first year of research would investigate innovations in 3D printed textiles, materials and technology. This will create a new knowledge of textiles in this area and develop an original research direction.  This research will be implemented through collaborations, visiting design studios, manufacturers, libraries, conferences, exhibitions, trade fairs, museums and other institutions at the key developmental stage of 3D printing in textiles.

In the wider context of 3D printing, new technological uses of materials have potential for an immense impact on our quality of life, as well as on ethical and ecological concerns. The research will particularly consider the possibility of developing bioplastic or recycled materials into filaments for 3D printed textiles. 3D printing can be a key development towards democratic manufacturing and design in producing new textiles and challenging traditional production methods.

Loughborough University and the garment company ‘Yeh’ are developing fabrics for 3D printing, experimenting with sustainable finishers, dyeing, and construction. Design engineer Bradley Rothenberg has created new meshes with properties of opacity, flexibility and stretch, using materials like thermoplastic elastomer and polyurethane, with custom fabrics grown around shapes such as 3D body scans.

RCA graduate Oluwaseyi Sosanya created a loom that can weave in three dimensions and used it to create a shoe sole. Gerard Rubio, a knitwear designer for OpenKnit, created an open source robotic loom capable of knitting entire seamless garments, setting up Kniterate to produce an affordable 3D knit machine. Creative director Jessica Rosenkrantz and scientist Jesse Louis-Rosenberg of Nervous System collaborated with 3D print company Shapeways to develop cutting-edge software for Google.

In 2016 I began a 2-year Masters at the RCA in Material Textiles print, spending my first year researching and experimenting with 3D printing, along with a dissertation on the development of smart fabrics and 3D printing. As a designer, I concentrate on bringing traditional textiles and technology together. My current research includes experimenting with new flexi filaments of TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) and material structures from a small desktop 3D printer. My practical research in my final year combines traditional techniques such as silk screen printing, digital sublimation and dying with 3D printing to develop different and new aesthetic techniques for print, using traditional textile processes such as lace, knit and weave as inspiration.

I have worked in the luxury fashion and textiles industry for over 15 years selling collections to high profile stores worldwide, participating in international shows and collaborating with key design labels. This experience has taught me that although being creative is key, the development of technology, manufacturing and their impact on natural resources must be paramount to the sustainable future of the industry.

I would like to undertake research through a combination of studio-based and thesis study. The development of my experimental practical research in 3D printed textiles will involve testing of materials for filaments, construction and design aesthetics. The thesis will document, reflect upon and contextualize the challenges and outcomes of my practice, as well as examining the relationship between theoretical and practical perspectives.

The development of 3D printing in textiles is currently being researched mainly from a design technology material, science, or engineering perspective. To build on this research from a textile fashion design orientated perspective would be my contribution, to explore how we can reinterpret traditional textiles using 3D printing. With the knowledge of the clothing industry and the challenges it currently faces, I intend to create textiles that might be produced from a cross-pollination of traditional textiles and 3D printing, creating opportunities that can ignite innovation through collaboration.

William McDonough, designer and author of Cradle to Cradle (2002), claims: ‘The sustainable impact on the world, starts with design if we can change the design process, we can positively impact on the circular economy”. China has announced that it will no longer be shipping UK plastic waste for disposal. We will soon be forced to find alternative uses for plastics; these could be recycled to make filaments for 3D printing, helping to reduce landfill.

Through sponsorship from the open source CREATE Education Project with the loan of a desktop Ultimaker 3D printer, I will collaborate with the designers and manufacturers of the machine, furthering knowledge of advancements in the 3D printing industry. I will document the use of the Ultimaker 2+ desktop printer in material textile developments through a blog and Instagram. CREATE Education have also appointed me as an Ambassador connecting me to the desktop 3D printing online community. This will enable me to analyze how the community engages and responds to my 3D printed textile research and help me contribute to the evolution of personalized manufacturing.

I will examine the use of bio–plastics and their development for 3D printed textiles, collaborating with practitioners who are developing bio-plastics and other recycled materials for 3D printers.   I intend to modify desktop 3D printers to achieve new textiles for ease of use, documenting findings through experiments with filament and structures and using CAD software such as Illustrator and Rhino to design and re-invent traditional processes like lacemaking and embroidery.

I will be researching Future 3D technical centres being set up worldwide to provide communities with technical training, like the Fab Lab in Germany, and analyzing how people design and produce solutions through small-scale high tech DIY business incubation. This represents the future democratization that makes 3D printing widely accessible, bringing our relationship with the making process into a more meaningful context.

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