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3D Printing Hits Project Runway as Designers Look Toward NYC Bridges for Inspiration


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0a26d91e0d2b3c666657836d189244c6The world of fashion is one that intermingles with that of art and design, and presents the same infinite opportunities in creativity. Often the same tools are used too, but with very different results, as for fashion they are being used more delicately and thoughtfully to accentuate the human body. When a fashion designer turns to the 3D printer, the results are usually very different and exciting.

While 3D printing is used in many very serious applications, from the medical industry where in fact it is sometimes responsible for helping to save lives, to helping further missions and even future colonization into space–it’s always fun and inspirational to take a break and check out what’s going on with 3D printing and fashion. While at first the Dita von Teese 3D printed dress was the most well-known, and indeed also the benchmark for 3D printing in apparel, 3D printing has begun to hit the mainstream so much that we now see a continual stream of dresses, shoes, and accessories hitting the runway.

So, it’s no surprise that the powers to be at Project Runway presented this season’s charges with their own 3D printing lab to get busy in; after all, these budding designers wouldn’t be very well-rounded without knowledge of the technology in regards to fashion. Using a very industrial slant, the group was instructed by Tim Gunn to use the famous bridges of New York City as their inspiration for design.

3D-Systems-Fabricate-3D-printed-textile-project-runway-300x186The Cube 3D printers did seem to be an initial source of curiosity, anxiety, and excitement, however, for the five designers left in this season’s challenge who were instructed to come up with something amazing for the 3D printing avant-garde challenge.

After initial murmurings regarding what the heck 3D printing even is, the show brought in Annie Shaw, Creative Director of 3D Systems. She informed them that her team would lead them through creating designs, 3D files, and then in 3D printing pieces that would come out in approximate five-inch squares. With a budget of $200, the designers had a mere two days to complete their work using the new 3D Systems Fabricate line of 3D printed textiles to do so. The line, Fabricate, meant only for the Cube 3D printer, is a logical progression for the meeting of minds in 3D printing and fashion as it allows for a mixture of 3D printing materials and traditional textiles such as leather.

With the project scope offering the group much inspiration for different motifs and angles dreamt up from looking at the Queensboro Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge, they came up with dresses, ponchos, and bracelets. Enthusiasm for both digital design and the 3D printing process grew exponentially as the show progressed. All of the designers experimented with and produced 3D prints showing off texture, shape, and enviable originality. One designer was the standout, however, with her obviously architecturally inspired dress, rocking an angular and brown crocodile skin type piece. [Spoiler for the episode below!]

“Congratulations. You are the winner of this challenge.”

UntitledWith the words that every designer on Project Runway dreams of hearing, Kelly Dempsey was lauded for her efforts in 3D print on this week’s episode. She also ended up with a Cube 3D printer–and all the trimmings from 3D Systems–as a reward for her efforts, which duly impressed the judges, who as we are all aware, have extremely high expectations. It’s always unpredictable as to which way things are going to go on the show, however–and we all hold our breath waiting to see who the winners will be–and who will go home.

Check out Dempsey’s post-win interview:

“I’m so excited. I don’t even know what I’m going to do with this thing,” said Dempsey, tongue-in-cheek, regarding her new Cube 3D printer. “I’m going to have like a 3D bedroom by the end of the year. I’m going to 3D my bed, my mirror, and my car…that I don’t have.”

This is not the first time 3D printing has been used on Project Runway, but it is the first time it was required as a group challenge, certainly exposing not only the designers to the technology, but all of the viewers around the world, whether catching it on prime time or streaming it later. The designers really warmed up to the technology and were able to produce some wonderful pieces right off the bat, leading us to hope they keep the Cubes around.

Let us know your thoughts on Project Runway utilizing 3D Printing in the Project Runway forum thread on


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