Researchers at Carnagie Mellon and Disney have developed a new type of 3D printer that prints 3D felt objects.
While the device looks and acts much like a conventional plastic filament 3D printer, it’s more like a 3D sewing machine. The extruder pushes out yarn instead of filament, as you might expect, but then things are different. The extruder is paired with a needle that, much like a sewing machine, pushes through the yarn to layers below. This action entangles fibers from layer to layer, joining them together. By adding layers a 3D felt object is gradually created.
The results are obviously rough, but we suspect the process could produce finer objects with some tuning and various mechanisms to increase resolution. Use of different fabric materials with this approach could produce new object variations, and combining different materials could be even more interesting.
This is the first cloth-like 3D printer we’ve seen, as other cloth experiments typically print arrays of linked small objects that only simulate cloth. This printer actually produces cloth - or at least felt.
The printer is a research project, as far as we can tell. However, it would likely be a useful and possibly popular feature in some homes and businesses, particularly for hobbyists. Perhaps we’ll see a new printer venture emerge in the next few months?