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There are some manufacturing realms which seem resistant, at least for now, to 3D printing solutions. The creation of clothing has yet to truly benefit from 3D printing – that is, unless you’re a fashion designer trying to jump on the additive manufacturing bandwagon to grind out some extra publicity.

For the most part 3D printed clothing has proved uncomfortable, clunky and not particularly attractive.

As printing technology, computer algorithms, design software and materials progresses, all that will change.

Once notable effort has seen Shapeways has recently team with the design studio Nervous System to create a 3D printed dress which might actually make sense.

Using a ‘4D’ printing system called Kinematics, Nervous System worked with Shapeways to make an ‘outside the box’ piece. Kinematics uses foldable, hinged, interconnected modules to allow for movement within an object, and it’s referred to as ‘4D printing’  because objects is printed in one form and then takes on another form as they adapt to a particular situation or environmental stimulus.

The dress straight out of the printer

The dress straight out of the printer

“Unlike some other 3D printed garments, this dress is custom-fit and completely wearable,” says Mansee Muzumdar, the Public Relations Manager for Shapeways. “Made of thousands of panels connected by hinge joints, the dress fluidly folds and conforms to body movements. It is the first printed dress with no attachments or assembly required, and was wearable right out of the printer.”

The most remarkable part of this entire project might have nothing to do with comfort and grace.

Using sophisticated computer simulations and physics (Open Dynamics Engine) algorithms via a web-based app called Kinematics Cloth, the team was able to print the garment in one piece within a powder-based nylon 3D printer. The application reduced the total volume of the dress by 85% by folding the 3D model up perfectly to fit within the confined build envelope of the printer. Once it was printed, Shapeways cleaned off the excess powder, and carefully unfolded it to reveal the perfect shape of a fitted piece of clothing.

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The Kinematic Cloth web app can be used for a variety of clothing types  and allows anyone who has an available body scan of themselves to design a piece which is custom fitted. The app allows for the selection of various module shapes and sizes, and that  truly provides the user with a personalized, yet stylish, 3D model which can be printed out in a single piece.

The dress created for this project consisted of 2,279 unique triangular panels which were interconnected by 3,316 individual hinges. While the individual pieces of printed nylon which make up the dress are hard – and rather inflexible – the way each piece connects to one another allows for movement and flow and yields a comfortable feel which is very much like that of fabric.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has acquired this dress for a permanent collection within an exhibit. It will be interesting to see what other pieces are created both by Nervous System, as well as the general public, now that the Kinematics Cloth web app is available.

Let us know your thoughts on this impressive 4D printed dress, and whether or not you have tried your hand at creating your own 4D dress via the new web app. Discuss and show off your work in the 4D Printed Kinematics Dress forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the videos below showing the fabrication process of the dress, as well as the design process via the Kinematics Cloth app:

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