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What is 3D printing? Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is the process of producing three-dimensional objects from a computer file. Each part of that object is built by adding material layer-by-layer.
The invention of this method targets two key issues in the manufacturing process. 3D printing reduces the time to create the first version of an object while also avoiding the constraints of traditional production methods. It allows the possibility to print complex geometric shapes and interlocking parts that require no assembly in small quantities and at low cost.
With 3D printing, it is also possible to produce different objects without the use of specific tools. Not only does this help increase flexibility in the production flow but also reduce expenses related to the industrial process. As such, 3D printing is the ideal method for on-demand, customization needs.
3D printing is considered a key technology to improve the sustainability of manufacturing. Traditional manufacturing methods can be wasteful and consume large amounts of energy and raw materials. However, 3D printing produces almost 70% - 90% less of that waste and energy consumption. With much of the design process carried out on computers, fewer prototypes are required and less waste is generated.
It is also good for the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. As a more efficient process, 3D printing doesn’t need the same amount of energy to create objects and decreases the need for the extensive transport caused by conventional manufacturing. This not only refers to the final products but also the raw materials that require shipping over long distances.
The use of sustainable materials is also encouraged in the 3D printing process. There is a wide selection of environmental feedstocks such as coffee grounds, algae and cellulose that can be used. Some 3D printers can even recycle single-use plastics such as water bottles and convert them into raw material.
Unlike most industries, the fashion industry has only recently made strides to adapt to the rapid acceleration of technology. However, some brands are already striving to be ahead of the curve. For years, Tommy Hilfiger has been making the switch to fully digital design - a goal that the brand hopes to accomplish by Spring 2022.
In order to do this, the apparel brand has launched a collaboration with The Fabricant. The Fabricant is a digital fashion house that makes innovative and compelling garments entirely in 3D. To aid with their virtual design process, The Fabricant uses CLO3D. CLO is a 3D fashion design software program that creates digital, true-to-life garments with simulation technology. With only a computer and a keyboard, designers can make a variety of designs for every type of garment ranging from simple t-shirts to complex outerwear.
Together, Tommy Hilfiger and The Fabricant were able to create a digital hooded sweatshirt as a proof-of-concept that digital design reduces the timeline of the production process. The design department was still able to gather data around desirability and market feasibility but without the risk of overstocking or the creation of unpopular color designs. This approach could pave the way for Tommy Hilfiger to adopt a production-on-demand business model that proves sustainability can be profitable.
Unlike the fashion industry, the architecture and design industry has already been experimenting with 3D printing technologies for years. Not only are these brands redefining their business model with the 3D approach but also creating designs that push the boundaries of innovation and creativity.
Nagami is a Spanish design studio that brings 3D printing and robotic manufacturing to large scale products and objects. Over the years, Nagami has exhibited intricacy and versatility in the field of 3D printing through experimental works in furniture design and environmental production.
One of the brand’s most renowned products is its VoxelChair v1.0 that it made in collaboration with designer Gilles Retsin. Inspired by the shape of Danish designer Verner Panton, the chair was created from a continuous line of plastic almost 2.4 kilometers in length. The plastic melted and solidified in the air, creating the chair’s intricate shape. Made from renewable resources such as cornstarch, the plastic is non-toxic and biodegradable. The brand developed the Voxel Chair for the 2017 exhibition “Imprimer Le Monde'' at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.