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shoe1Given that we are so particular about the things that we wear on our bodies, it makes sense that “wearables” is such a growing category in the 3D printing industry. What are wearables? Anything you wear on your body: clothing, jewelry, accessories — including eyewear. Materialise has announced five major eyewear projects in the past year, fashion collaborations, and other consumer products like hearing aids. Because the company has so much recent experience developing 3D printed products, it offers 5 tips for 3D printed Wearables in a recent blog post.

Aesthetics is the first area covered here, as it is important for your wearables to capture the design freedom of your product’s brand. Part of this freedom is making your wearables available in a wide variety of colors and finishes, since people are so particular about their tastes when customizing their own selections.

Next we focus on design issues, where thinking outside the box gets rewarded while certain considerations, like the material you decide to 3D print with, can also make a big impact on your design decisions. The example that Materialise gives here is the knitwear designer Hannah Evans, who explains that her designs changed when she considered 3D printing: “You can use materials that just aren’t physically possible on a knit machine, which completely expands the possibilities with knitwear.”

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Your wearable products’ overall designs will be largely impacted by the possibilities presented by the technology — once you decide to produce 3D printed items in your business.

Innovation is also a key consideration here. While 3D printing is still a relatively new technology, it is gaining in popularity, and so innovation becomes the quality that will allow your own business to stand out among the others. However, some of us get swept away by the technology’s promise of eternal innovation, losing sight of the fact that these items will have to be used in a practical sense, too. Materialise provides the example of the Adidas Futurecraft shoe, which offers functional integration and better performance with its 3D printed midsole.

shoe2Of course, this list would not be complete without mentioning customization and personalization. These two qualities are probably the main reasons that people are attracted to 3D printed items in the first place. Wearables that can be customized, even “mass customized,” will become more common as people catch onto the benefits of having their exact fit and design needs met. Mass customization allows for a product that can be easily customized using tools that also allow the product to be made quickly and efficiently. Eyewear and insoles are a great example of this; the wearer’s measurements help craft high-quality products that fit like a glove. Usually people won’t go back to non-customized products once they have tried the 3D printed kind out: this is a good thing to keep in mind.

Finally, as the materials end of the 3D printing wearables sector gets more developed, performance and durability become increasing possibilities. Product materials need to be durable, perspiration-proof, UV-resistant, stain-resistant, and skin contact-safe. Materialise uses the Luxura brand as an example:

“For eyewear, jewelry and other wearable consumer products, skin contact will be a constant reality of the product’s usage. Exposure to a wearer’s skin can affect the product’s finish over time, potentially making colors less vibrant or surface treatments less effective. Environmental wear and tear is inevitable, but a good finish can reduce the surface porosity and protect it from changing colors due to UV light, or acquiring stains and marks.”

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If you are interested in developing a 3D printed wearables product line, hopefully these considerations will help you incorporate aesthetics, design, innovation, customization, and performance into your business. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Wearables Tips from Materialise forum over at 3DPB.com.

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