Many of the most exclusive designers and companies in the fashion world have opted for 3D printing technologies to make all kinds of clothes: dresses, bags, shoes, etc. If you take a look at some of the most important and luxurious events in the fashion industry, such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Met Gala or many of the world’s most important fashion shows, it is very likely that someone is wearing a piece of 3D printed clothing.
3D Printing Applications in Fashion
In the world of haute couture, 3D printing plays a very important role because it enables a freedom of design that isn’t possible to have when using conventional manufacturing methods. With 3D technologies, we can print different garments: one of them is shoes, as in the case of high-end shoe designer Annie Foo. By scanning the customer’s foot, the designer gets pieces that are totally adapted to their physiognomy while offering organic shapes. In addition to designers making custom-made garments for each client, there are also high-end companies that have already 3D printed shoes, such as Balenciaga, which costs around $3,250.
There are also some 3D printed garments, such as those made by Iris Van Herpen, that’s designs transcend boundaries and in which 4.0 technologies and traditional craftsmanship are combined. Iris’ visionary designs fuse pioneering techniques and luxurious materials, often evoking a pre-war feeling.
There are also high-end 3D printing companies that focus entirely on the fashion and luxury sector, such as VOJD Studios, which works with brands such as Kenzo, Acne Studios, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Carolina Herrera and helps them integrate 3D printing into their collections. Other companies, such as Dior, have used 3D printing to create thousands of prototypes and exact replicas of their collections to decorate their stores, such as the impressive 3D printed collection for the famous Dior Gallery in Paris.
The Most Used 3D Printing Technologies in the Luxury Sector
Currently, designers and creators are looking for materials that are rather soft and will recall the appearance of leather or fabric. Those vary depending on the garment to be printed. In the case of rigid garments, it is possible to use different printing technologies such as SLA, LCD, DLP or SLS. This allows the fashion industry to create complex designs with a lot of detail, often for fashion shows. For more flexible garments, such as those created by Israeli designer Danit Peleg, TPE is often used. TPE is an elastomer that can be stretched to the breaking point and has a high coefficient of friction, making it very flexible, so the results are very similar to a textile mesh. For these elastic parts, FDM is probably the most used technology. Finally, the material jet process is particularly popular because it adds realism to creations and allows for the addition of color.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Additive Manufacturing in Luxury Fashion?
In a cutting-edge industry like fashion, combining the latest trends with the latest 3D printing technology allows companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 3D printed designs are sustainable, more environmentally friendly and personalized. Customization has become a key trend that is present in all luxury sectors. Consumers of these products want unique garments, imagined just for them, which explains the success of brands that offer custom products. For Danit Peleg, who uses 3D printing in his production process, the main advantages of 3D printed fashion are individuality, flexibility and durability.
“There’s zero production waste – no scraps or unwanted clothing in the shops. If you get tired of a garment, you can simply melt it and make a new one” Danit Peleg explains.
One of the main disadvantages of 3D garments is their rigidity, which limits people’s mobility. Currently, cotton and silk are much more comfortable to wear. It would be interesting to find solutions to introduce more flexible materials or explore the concept of 3D printed knitwear.
3D Printing and Jewelry
Jewelry making, as an economic activity, dates back to ancient Egypt, 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. The jeweler has witnessed and played a leading role in successive technological innovations, century after century. But in the long history of jewelry, no technical advance has had as much impact as additive manufacturing. It offers jewelry designers a wide range of possibilities, including customization, aesthetics, and production speed. That’s why world-renowned companies such as Cartier and Tiffany & Co. have integrated 3D printing into various stages of the production process, from prototyping to post-processing to lost-wax processes.
How Can We Use 3D Printing in Jewelry?
3D printing is used in various ways in the jewelry industry. One of the most typical applications is prototyping. Additive manufacturing allows the jeweler and customer to visualize the part, albeit in a different material, before creating the final piece. This helps refine the design, reduce the time needed for modifications and eliminate errors in the final design. On the other hand, we have what are called indirect manufacturing methods. In these cases, 3D printing is used as a fast, accurate and efficient way to produce a basic model of the part. The model is then used to make a mold, which is ultimately used to obtain the final part by casting and solidifying the final material of the part.
Another of the processes used is that of lost wax casting, which allows for much more complex shapes. This is a method in which molten metal replaces a wax model placed in a mold by melting it. Jewelers can now 3D print this model, giving them more freedom in terms of geometry. It is then possible to produce metallic accessories for perfumes, or aesthetic and technical accessories for leather goods.
The Most Used Technologies to Create 3D Jewelry
If there is one additive manufacturing technology that will be of extraordinary importance to the jewelry industry, it is the one that allows the construction of metal objects, such as laser fusion. Other companies, such as EAC, opt for Metal Binder Jetting, which allows a higher level of quality and productivity, guaranteeing a better finish of the part. Among the most used technologies are stereolithography, valued for the level of detail it offers, FDM and Polyjet technology. Stereolithography and FDM are technologies commonly used for printing prototypes in hot melt materials, which are used in the manufacture of jewelry parts by lost wax casting.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Additive Manufacturing in Jewelry
Thanks to additive manufacturing, jewelers can improve their efficiency and productivity in their work, because while the printer performs its function, they can focus on other tasks. In addition, thanks to it, it is possible to obtain several pieces with high quality and definition of details, especially in the case of complex and complicated designs. Despite the many advantages, not everything is rosy, and the acquisition of a 3D printer involves an investment in time to learn how to model, as well as money to acquire this new technology.
With 3D, there are no limits to creativity. Additive manufacturing allows us to manufacture and duplicate any small part, to print and metalize parts in series. We are able to create, polish and metalize parts of previously unthinkable complexity. With this new technology, we can meet any type of demand. Additive manufacturing allows our designers and customers to set no limits on the design of their accessories,” said Patrick Chouvet, CEO of EAC.
The Future of 3D Printing in Luxury
As discussed earlier, the luxury market is growing and represents a high value. This makes it a key target market for 3D printed clothing, accessories, cars, etc. Luxury customers, especially millennials, are increasingly looking to express their own individuality through material goods, such as clothing or cars. Therein lies the real appeal of 3D printed products: they offer great customization and uniqueness, so designers, such as Iris van Herpen, who use additive manufacturing processes, have the opportunity to market their products to an increasingly affluent market.
In addition, specific customers such as the before mentioned millennials or specific markets such as the Chinese market are always open to technological advancements and sustainable clothing. Therefore, it is very likely that their predisposition to purchase 3D printed luxury goods is positive. However, there is still a long way to go. For example, in the fashion world, 3D printing technologies are not mature enough. We are getting unique designs, but their performance is inferior to that of traditionally made garments. Will we be able to overcome this obstacle?