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Layer by Layer: 3D Textile Printing Today

Sep 18th, 2018

What Is 3D Printing?

3D printing is defined as the process of creating objects via computerized control by joining together or solidifying material. During this process, the material is printed layer after layer and joined together to form an object, as directed by a meticulously designed computer program.

3D Textile Printing

Imagine using a regular household printer to print out the letter A. If we look closely, we will see that the ink has not stained the paper but rather it is fixed atop the paper. If we print the letter again and again onto the same paper, a 3D letter will take shape on that paper as it increases in volume. With an actual 3D printer used today, a binder material is sprayed onto a powder bed using an inkjet printer head, layer after layer, which ultimately forms together to create a 3D object.

3D printing is an emerging technology that is rapidly being adopted by manufacturing sectors around the world, such as the auto industry, prosthetics, housing materials, and medical tool manufacturing. The precision achieved by 3D printing is unprecedented and unparalleled by any past technology or manufacturing method.

If you are considering 3D textile printing for your business, such as a custom sign, carpet, or curtains, now is the time. Being an early adopter will show your clients and the general public that your company is on the cutting edge of new technologies.

Advantages of 3D Printing

In traditional manufacturing, no matter how efficient the operation procedures are, a portion of the raw materials goes to waste. For industries with high rates of defects, such as packaging manufacturing or the garment industry, the portion of raw materials wasted can be quite high.

With 3D printing, the exact amount of raw material required to create the object is used, no more and no less. The layers are created and fused together with no slipping or squishing, eliminating the element of chance that comes with human workers. This means that no raw material is wasted whatsoever.

In addition to the advantage of zero wastage, 3D printing replaces many labour-intensive steps in the production cycle, helping to reduce labour costs. Workplace accidents are also reduced because dangerous aspects of labour are performed mechanically rather than manually.

Another large advantage that 3D printing provides is improved quality. The 3D printing method is incredibly precise, the layers are added atop one another in an exact and easily replicable manner. As the element of human error is removed from the manufacturing process, quality control is more easily managed.

Disadvantages of 3D Printing

Disadvantages of the 3D printing process include the high levels of energy consumption, the high expense of purchasing and maintaining the printer, a limited roster of materials fit and available for use, the level of training needed to operate the printer, limited research into toxins and carcinogenic particles emitted by the printer, the amount of time needed to produce an object, and the potential that a printer can be misused to manufacture unsafe items such as weapons or to infringe on copyrights.

3D Printing of Textiles

3D printing of textiles is still in its relative infancy. This is an exciting time to experiment and explore a new range of options for textile patterns, colours, and material. Combining 3D printed panels with traditional textiles is an innovative and creative way to incorporate 3D printing techniques into textile manufacturing. Research is ongoing regarding different methods for blending or joining together the 3D printed panels to the textile.

Some textile industries such as clothing manufacturing have yet to fully realize the potential that 3D printing technology has to offer. This delay is due to the fact that synthetic materials commercially available for 3D printing, such as polylactic acid, are neither flexible nor comfortable enough to be used in garments. Unlike wool, linen or other natural fibres, the synthetic materials do not allow air to pass through as easily.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a textile for thermal regulation that has over twice the cooling effect of cotton. The researchers created uniform, highly aligned nanofibres using 3D printing, and packed them very closely together. The researchers demonstrated that a fabric woven from the nanofibres has a strong cooling effect and a high level of mechanical strength. The material, if mass produced, could provide a simple, inexpensive method for cooling down the human body. Perhaps it could also be used for pets. This would reduce the need for air conditioning, which would save in environmental and financial costs in the long term.

3D printing is becoming fairly common in the manufacturing of jewellery and footwear. Footwear companies are using 3D printing technology for manufacturing high-performance padding and soles of shoes. This is a natural step because the soles of shoes are typically made from foam.

The Future of 3D Textile Printing Is Now

There are many different ways to include 3D textile printing in your business. You could use items that can showcase and highlight your brand, including trade-show backdrops and tablecloths, media walls for special events, oversized wall calendars, textile banners, mascot signs, privacy curtains, upholstery for chairs and sofas, lamp shades, and more.

Though the range of raw materials and other options available for 3D printing is limited, now is the time to find creative ways to implement the new technology and expand your horizons. For example, you could pull the colours and shades from your company’s logo and expand the design into a full-size banner for an important trade show. Or you can have custom lamp shades and curtains printed for your showroom floor.

For more information on 3D textile printing, please call Club Ink at (416) 694-1996 or contact us here.

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