AMS Spring 2023

3D Printing of Handbags, Duffels and R&D Tax Credits

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3D printing continues to expand as a powerful tool for fashion. In the fashion industry, designers have gone above and beyond by using various technologies to improve their products. They have been able to design and create innovative 3D handbags for various industries, namely fashion and sport.

The market for bags has been evolving to a smaller handbag niche market, and as a result, companies are incentivized to embrace new technologies to upgrade their products. In the past decade, there has been an increase in online sales of handbags. Many consumers are now latching on to this phenomenon and are looking to purchase affordable luxury items, hence the growing success of 3D online retailers.

3D printing is a technology that makes it possible to turn 3D modeled designs into custom solid objects on demand. 3D printing uses a combination of art and science to develop objects. It’s a way to express a design and idea that one has in their mind and then use accurate measurements and precise techniques and technology to be able to print that idea into fruition.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • New or improved products, processes, or software
  • Technological in nature
  • Elimination of Uncertainty
  • Process of Elimination

Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent.  On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax and start-up businesses can utilize the credit against payroll taxes.

Mon Purse

[Image: Mon Purse]

Within the fashion industry, Mon Purse, founded in 2014 by Lana Hopkins, is a new company with a customizable handbag brand. When asked to describe her company, Lana Hopkins says the company targets women who wish to be their own brand. It is the inquisitive, interested and inspired millennial. It allows customers to select from a variety of leathers, prints, colors, and fringes to create their own bags, clutches and totes. Once the business succeeded in US markets, the company spread globally to places such as Sydney, Australia and the UK. Lana Hopkins has her bags manufactured in Turkey, which happens to be one of the world’s leather capitals, and makes sure that her bags never compromise on quality or style. Clearly this strategy is working as Mon Purse had sales of $10,000 in July 2015 and $500,000 in December 2015. In addition to transforming the fashion industry, they are using their data regarding customers’ designing habits to drive the production choices.

XYZ Design Your Own Bag


An Italy-based company called XYZbag, founded by design duo Annalisa and Matteo, created a “create your bag” online configuration which includes stylish 3D printed purses. The handbags can be designed and ordered on the company’s website, allowing the customer to build their own bag and be a part of the entire process, from start to finish. The market for designing and manufacturing handbags that are 3D built provides a freedom of customization. As the founders stated, everyone is unique and so should be the bags.

Entrepreneurs on the Rise

Small business owner Charne Esterhuizen designs her own line using a 3D printer. Designers have been seeking new ways to incorporate technology into fashion, allowing their designs to be freedom of expression pieces. Esterhuizen 3D prints clothing and handbags as a runway collection, and finds her inspiration from experimenting with new sustainable fabrics. She hopes to one day use advanced technology to be able to print 4D fashion. These future technologies will permit fashion companies to use biodegradable resources and in turn seek environmentally friendly avenues.

One of the drawbacks, however, is the risk of losing the personal touch associated with crafting handbags since everything is created on a computer and more robotic or uniform. 3D printing handbags can have a greater impact from the design process to production, storage, installation and recycling, since products can be made on site.

Nike Sports Duffel

In 2014, Nike launched a product called the Rebento duffel, part of a larger kit which was a 3D printed sports bag for players that were competing in the FIFA World Cup. Only three Rebento duffels exist, manufactured for Brazilian player Neymar Jr., the highest paid player in the sport with a contract for $263 million. Nike designers used a 3D printed honeycomb, which is a patterned piece of plastic that has small, raised interconnected sections, and the signature NIKE fly knit pattern to laser-sinter the duffel. The bag featured premium leather on the top and the strap, giving the body of the bag a lightweight yet durable structure. Rebento is Portuguese for “explode” which signifies that the players recognized that the cutting edge technologies used to develop the bags provided a safeguard for their equipment without sacrificing, speed, fit or comfort.

Nike is focusing heavily on customization and moving goods to the printer faster. With an increase in manufacturing, they are loosening up restraints on 3D printing since they have a lot of manufacturing happening in the company. They are also interested in exploring and expanding the work they have done with 3D printing in the past and how they can advance their existing capabilities with new printer applications. Nike is now looking to partner with companies such as Apple to take innovation to the next level.

[Image: Nike]

Additionally, Nike has launched 3D printed shoes and cleats to match the whole kit, including the duffel bag for the players. The shoes were released for the 2014 World Cup and sought to deliver the strength, structure, and support to play the sport. The shoes acted as “an extension of the player’s body.” The futuristic shoe works as a glove and is changing the world of soccer.


The 3D print industry is colliding with the fashion industry and there is even greater potential in the handbag field.  Today, companies, designers, and other individuals engaging in research and development of 3D printed handbags are eligible for federal and state R&D tax credits.

Charles R. Goulding and Alizé Margulis of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printed handbags.


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