3D printed fashion is becoming more prevalent in the design world, but there are plenty of challenges surrounding it. Taking a technology that is largely used to create solid plastic items and creating something flexible and wearable isn’t easy, and a lot of 3D printed fashion still isn’t exactly what you would call wearable, except for on the runway. Much of the more successful 3D printed fashion involves regular fabric with 3D printed accents, but that carries its own challenges in terms of getting the 3D printed plastic to adhere firmly to the fabric. In a paper entitled “3D Printing of PLA onto Textile Fabrics,” a group of researchers discusses this very challenge.
In the study, a PLA model was 3D printed on eight different fabric samples that differed in fabric weight, warp density, weft density, warp linear density and weft linear density. The researchers discovered a relationship between polymer adhesion force and warp density.
“While the relationship is not direct, there is however a general tendency for the adhesion force to increases the warp density decreases,” they explain. “This can be explained by the fact that as the warp yarns become more densely packed it becomes difficult for the polymer to surround the individual yarns. This leads to less area available for the polymer to hold on to the fabric hence reducing the adhesion force.”
There was also a general decrease in adhesion force with an increase in weft density, likely due to the same reasons as mentioned above. The researchers also discovered that warp linear density is directly proportional to adhesion force, however:
“While it may appear that an increase of the linear density provides more area for the polymer to hold onto the fabric, the results of the relationship between the adhesion force and the weft linear density, as shown in Fig. 6, tends to suggest otherwise.”
In summary, while warp density, weft density and warp linear density showed an effect on adhesion, fabric weight and linear weft density had no direct effect on adhesion. This information can be used by designers looking for the right type of fabric to combine with 3D printed plastic accents, in order to minimize challenges in getting the 3D printed plastic to adhere to the fabric.
There are a number of advantages in using 3D printing to create fashion. Combining the textures of fabric and polymer can lead to unique effects that are both striking and wearable, if done well. 3D printing can also be used to create one of a kind, customized garments that other technologies are less capable of accomplishing. It’s important to have the proper knowledge and skills when creating 3D printed fashion, however. 3D printed accents can be sewn or glued onto fabric, but 3D printing them directly onto the fabric saves time, money and supplies. Knowing the right fabric to use for 3D printing can save a designer even more time, money and effort, and enable them to create attractive and wearable art.
Authors of the paper include Nonsikelo Sheron Mpofu, Josphat Igadwa Mwasiagi, Londiwe Nkiwane, and David Njguna.
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