AMS Spring 2023

Electroloom Going Out of Business – But the News Isn’t All Bad for 3D Printed Clothing Fans

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images (3)It’s always a sad day when any company goes out of business – it’s a sadder day when that company is as interesting and unique as Electroloom. We covered the startup last year when they launched their product on Kickstarter, and an amazing product it was indeed. The Electroloom was a fabric 3D printer that allowed users to design and print their own clothing from scratch, and Kickstarter backers loved the idea. The campaign raised $82,344, well over their goal of $50,000, and the future of the company was looking bright.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality that many startups end up facing is that a great product and enthusiastic customers sometimes aren’t enough for a successful business. It’s hard to get a new company off the ground, and even the most promising startups sometimes founder after a great start. In a blog post announcing the company’s closure, CEO Aaron Rowley explains where things went wrong.

“The bottom line is that we simply do not have the financial ability to continue supporting the company,” Rowley says. “We were previously funded through a mixture of venture capital and government grants. Despite our best efforts (for over one year), we have been unable to raise a new round. We have made big changes throughout 2016 in hopes of reducing our burn rate, but without additional capital, we are unable to keep the company afloat. We suffered a lot of problems and mistakes that led us here, perhaps too many to outline in detail. The reality is that a lot of events factored into our inability to raise: slow technical progress, significant scientific risk, a lack of an MVP, and a poorly defined market opportunity.”

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It wasn’t all for nothing, though – the Electroloom team states that they’ve learned a lot about what people want to see in the future of the apparel industry. Sustainable manufacturing methods, opportunities for creativity and customization – those are a couple of the factors that drive a lot of the interest in 3D printing overall, and those desires aren’t going away. Nothing like Electroloom had ever really been seen before, but despite the company’s dissolution, they learned they share a vision with a large portion of the public.

5e7a2a98dddb290063c8ac8a00f338a3_originalSo will the Electroloom team be back in another form? I wouldn’t be surprised – they’ve shown great ideas and drive, and although mistakes were made, the endeavor almost certainly served as a learning experience that may lead to a better business model in the future. In the meantime, Electroloom doesn’t want to leave their customers out in the cold, so they’ve outlined several other promising apparel companies that have similar visions for the future of apparel:

  • Kniterate started forming around the same time that Electroloom did, and they’re getting ready to launch a Kickstarter for their own fabric 3D printer. It’s a similar concept to Electroloom, in that users can design and print their own clothing seamlessly and in one piece, but with very different material: knitwear instead of lightweight microfiber.
  • Disney Research recently developed a heavy-duty 3D knitting compiler for the industrial production of clothing and even stuffed toys. Still in the early stages of development, we covered this project back in July.
  • Unmade produces customized, made-to-order clothing with industrial knitting machines that we took a look at last year. The company holds no physical stock; customers simply design the garments they want online, and Unmade will produce it and ship it within about a week.
  • Ambercycle recycles polyester and plastics into new, sustainable raw materials – a worthy goal, as most clothing is made from at least partial polyester, which doesn’t biodegrade and thus just sits in landfills.
  • Bolt Threads is currently working on a new, biomimicry-based method of manufacturing silk thread on a large scale
  • JUST is a database of apparel brands with information on their manufacturing methods and environmental impact, to help consumers make wiser shopping decisions.

Overall, there are a lot of exciting things developing in the apparel industry, and while Electroloom will be missed, I hope they’ll try again in the future, because one thing that they, and many other companies, have shown is that people are eager for change in the way their clothing is produced. With the combination of technology and ingenuity arising in the fashion industry, we may see our apparel significantly change – for the better – in the near future. Discuss further in the Electroloom to Go Out of Business forum over at 3DPB.com.

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An early Electroloom fabric prototype.

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