3D Printing and Knitting Converge: Technical crafting brings new dimension to apparel

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What’s important in any type of knitting is texture, weight, and integrity. While it’s usually the yarn and the needles that determine the outcome of the material, Laura McPherson and Mark Beecroft of the Manchester School of Art (Manchester, England) are adding a new dimension to  this artful process, with technical crafting — and 3D printing.mmuandartschoolblk_logo

We aren’t talking about your grandmother’s knitting anymore, with balls of yarn and needles tucked into a wicker basket at arm’s length from an easy chair by the fireplace.

“We have created a 3D printed knitted sample that has the fineness and flexibility required for textiles, and we have begun to combine this with machine knit,” Mark Beecroft told 3DPrint.com.

This year, McPherson and Beecroft have been busy stitching together the two-dimensional world of knitting with 3D printing in their exploration of technical crafting, which is experimental in its nature, offering new definition to both old and new technology.

Knit Samples

Knit Sample

By integrating 3D printing into the world of knitting, great movement and flexibility are possible in the many different forms created. Because the two worlds tend to be thought of as harder materials (3D printing) and softer materials (knitting), integration of the two processes with technical crafting opens the door to a new medium.

Heat Press Sample

Heat Press Sample

The artists take interlocking loops from the knit structure, which is manipulated and transformed before and after the process of 3D printing, creating lovely, fluid pieces. The use of color with technical crafting and 3D knitting is explored as well through ‘the application of a sensitive color palette to the usually neutral 3D printed plastic.’ The artists demonstrate use of color through:

  • Structural integration
  • Embellishment
  • Trapped and overlaid color
  • Heat setting

The 3D printed works of McPherson and Beecraft were first shown at the Spinexpo in Shanghai this past summer, and their body of work is about to be exhibited at the Knitting Nottingham exhibition.

knit sample 3

Knit Sample

Mark Beecraft is a Senior Lecturer regarding ‘Textiles in Practice’ at The Manchester School of Art. He holds a BA in Embroidery, and an MA in Textiles. With an interest in how digital fabrication and arts such as knitting can be combined with design, Mark works ‘at the intersection of textile innovation and new materiality, adopting a hybrid approach to technologies such as 3D printing.’

Laura McPherson is also a Senior Lecturer regarding ‘Textiles in Practice’ at The Manchester School of Art. She is a freelance knit designer based in London, and holds a BA in Textile Design, as well as an MA in Constructed Textiles. She ‘aims to challenge the perceptions of knit and embraces an experimental approach to materials, yarn and dye techniques.’

The Manchester School of Art has a mission to be not just an art school but also a community and a laboratory where they encourage the artists to take risks and ask a lot of what ifs. Undoubtedly, McPherson and Beecraft are carrying out those goals with their exploration of textiles and 3D printing.

kniit sample 8Knitting is an activity and an art that goes back to ancient times, and with the invention of the knitting machine, became a luxurious hobby for many. With 3D printing, artisans today are afforded the luxury of new exploration, new materials, and new technology adding progress to a process that has lended itself to machinery readily. What do you think of this combination of textiles and 3D printing? Tell us about it in the Technical Crafting forum at 3DPB.com.

knit sample 4

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