Customizing the Future: 3-D printing’s role in fashion
3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, is no longer some farfetched concept dreamed up by science fiction enthusiasts. The technology has already gained a lot of ground, and according to Forbes, 2013 shows no signs of slowing down.
For instance, because this technique allows products to be custom-matched to an exact body shape, it is already being used for making titanium bone implants, prosthetic limbs and orthodontic devices. Looking ahead, we can expect to hear about experiments in printing soft tissue. Even better, keep an eye out for updates on surgeon Anthony Atala’s quest to solve the organ-donor problem (i.e., a 3-D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney).
While this is all fascinating stuff, one of my Google Alerts recently pointed me to a much more relevant use of 3-D printing: outfitting burlesque model Dita Von Teese in a killer dress. 3-D printed dresses may not be something new, but Von Teese’s nylon mesh garment happens to be the first 3-D printed full-length gown. Produced on a 3-D printer at Shapeways, the Fibbonaci-inspired gown is the brainchild of Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti.
Thanks to geographic barriers, Schmidt and Bitonti communicated digitally. In fact, the dress was “designed on an iPad, refined over Skype, rendered digitally by [Bitonti] and sent to Shapeways for printing,” said Schmidt. The result? Bitonti likened the dress to a “Chinese finger trap,” noting how the dress conforms to Von Teese’s body with each movement.
Does this mean 3-D printing will eventually shake up the fashion industry as we currently know it? Von Teese’s dress isn’t exactly practical. But once manufacturers begin to offer more flexible, user-friendly materials, perhaps the apparel segment will get a bit of a facelift. Who can say for sure? Do you think the idea of 3-D printing is overhyped? For our purposes, does it have a future in promotional apparel? I’m no expert; however, it makes me wonder when I read stories like this … or this … or even this.