Design of the Week: 3D Printed Dress

By on October 11th, 2021 in Design, news

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3D Printed Dress [Source: Sophy Wong / Twitter]

This week’s selection is the 3D printed dress by designer Sophy Wong.

Wong is a well-known designer who has produced a number of fascinating projects, but her speciality is wearable technology. That’s precisely what the 3D printed dress is all about.

For this project, Wong used a technique to 3D print fabric-like materials. The process is to 3D print small non-contiguous objects in a pattern directly on top of a thin fabric mesh, like that seen above.

The mesh provides the flexibility, while the objects provide the structure. Wong experiments with the distance between the objects in the pattern to home in on the correct amount of drape in the resulting 3D printed fabric.

Wong explains in detail her 3D printed fabric process in this video about a previous fabric project:

But how could a complete, life-size wearable dress be 3D printed? It’s far larger than a 3D printer.

Wong’s approach was to segment the dress into panels, each of which would fit on her 3D printer’s build plate. Mesh fabric was tightly placed on the plate, and printing occurred on top. During the first layer or two, the soft thermoplastic bonds with the mesh fabric, creating the structure.

As you might imagine, wearing a dress with this mesh backing might be uncomfortable, so Wong provided a softer layer on the inside. She explains via Twitter:

“Once all the panels were connected for the top & bottom (the dress is 2 separate pieces), I backed them w/a silk taffeta lining to provide more stability and, you know, so the whole thing isn’t just a sheer mesh garment.”

This dress is not only wearable, but also comfortable.

One very interesting feature is a hidden zipper, which makes the 3D printed fabric appear to be a single piece:

Wong explained that the material used to 3D print the dress was actually Filamentum PLA. You might be surprised to learn that the material was not a flexible filament, as one might expect in a wearable item.

But the dress still offers considerable flexibility due to the ability of the non-printed areas of mesh to bend. It’s a fascinating combination of flexible and rigid materials that results in an amazing design.

Wong intends on producing a video to explain how the dress was designed and built, but it’s not yet available. Meanwhile, Wong has plenty other very interesting design and making videos on similar projects you can watch.

This is a very impressive project that not only involved complex design, but also complex 3D printing and post processing.

Via Twitter, Sophy Wong and YouTube

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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