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Fabrics Printed From Plastic, With Lasers

3-D printed fabrics could make wardrobe crises obsolete.

Fabrics Printed From Plastic, With Lasers

In the not-too-distant future, instead of standing frustratedly in front of your closet whining, "I have nothing to wear!", you might instead be able to print out some new clothes. One of the latest innovations in the digital fabrication realm is a printed textile concept called digi-fabric, developed by Shapeways.

Digi-fabric consists of tiny geometric shapes—squares, hexagons and the like—which, when linked together in a printed fabric swatch, allow multi-directional stretchiness. Just like this collapsible lamp shade or this jointed necklace, the digi-fabric doesn't have to be assembled or woven—rather, it can be printed in one fell swoop.

The process works by sweeping a laser across a pan of powdered nylon; when the lasers hit the nylon, it fuses ("sinters"). The process repeats in layers, until the final product emerges. Thus, you can create interlocking shapes all at once—for example, a chain whose links are completely closed.

The digi-fabric is soft enough to be draped around an arm but resistant to breaking under force. Breathability might be an issue with the rubbery stuff, but it's easy to imagine an experimental fashion designer printing out some sample garments and dressing up some models for a runway test drive.

[Via Ponoko]