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“Prêt à imprimer” fashion is here

The SSYS 2Y22 collection featuring PolyJet 3D printing on textiles culminates years of work by Stratasys' Naomi Kaempfer

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Anyone who sees firsthand the multimaterial, multicolor, high-resolution capabilities of high-end PolyJet 3D  printing immediately begins imagining the creative possibilities offered by this most advanced polymer 3D printing process. This is especially true for the future of customizable clothing. While experimental use of 3D printing – and PolyJet 3D printing specifically – for artistic and even wearable products has existed for nearly a decade, real end-use applications, even in the highest-end design and fashion products are still rare. That’s no longer the case. With the SSYS-2Y22 Reflection Collection, the brainchild of Naomi Kaempfer and Boris Belocon, PolyJet 3D printing is entering the world of high fashion and luxury consumer products. With it comes a new Stratasys 3D printer, the J850 Tech Style, developed specifically for printing on textiles and the ability to create consumer products that cannot be made in any other way.

“Boris Belocon and I have been working closely since 2014,” Naomi Kaempfer, Art, Design, and Fashion Director for Stratasys, told 3dpbm when we meet her on the first day of their Milan Design Week launch event, at the Superstudio+ space in Zona Tortona. “He is the engineer that connects the creative world to the machines. We then worked with the fantastic R&D and Production teams, as well as Stratasys Application Engineers to make this initial idea into the real 3D printing on textiles you see today.”

For those who are not familiar with it, the Milan Design Week events take place throughout the entire city of Milan during Salone del Mobile, the largest global fair for the furniture and product design industries. These events, collectively known as Fuorisalone (outside the Salone) focus on 5 main areas of the city. Zona Tortona is one of these areas and it was where it all started. Many large 3D printing projects have been exhibited during Fuorisalone and this is one of the largest and most important ones ever presented. Certainly one of the most disruptive and innovative.

Naomi Kaempfer continued: “I’m responsible for all the art, design, and fashion projects: I come up with a creative project with a design and technological understanding, and Boris adapts it to our technology. In 2018, he showed me that we could print on textiles. It started with a small printed part on a piece of cloth. It was not necessarily very aesthetic at first but it was absolutely convincing and I was super excited about it.”

Directly 3D printing on textiles is a revolution because it allows the creation of customizations and products that would either be possible to make or would have such a high labor cost that would make them impossible to bring to market, at any price.

“It was a real breakthrough – Kaempfer continued – since the fashion industry had already been looking at possibilities offered by 3D printing but they could not solve the issue of stitching the printed parts to the garments.”

Fast forward to 2Y22

So here we are, four years later, presenting the SSYS-2Y22 Reflection Collection, a collection of unique dresses, created by several artists, including those created by designer Karim Rashid. As one of the most prolific designers of his generation, with more than 4000 designs in production, 400 awards, and operating in over 35 countries Karim’s a legend of design. Each piece in his repertoire reflects the signature style of art graphics and geometry.

“In particular – Naomi Kaempfer said – his interdisciplinary designs digitally transformed from 2D to 3D, as he created a range of luxury handbags and dresses that are fashionable in both casual settings as well as more elegant occasions. Now we are working with 3D on 2D and it will be interesting to see where that leads. The challenge is how to translate Karim’s art into his dresses. We want to do this with new materials, including a new fluorescent line of Polyjet materials.”

The SSYS 2Y22 collection featuring PolyJet 3D printing on textiles culminates years of work by Stratasys' Naomi Kaempfer

The SSYS 2Y22 collection featuring PolyJet 3D printing on textiles culminates years of work by Stratasys' Naomi Kaempfer
Some of the designs by Karim Rashid

Naomi Kaempfer confirmed that the J850 Tech Style technology is already a practical tool, ready for adoption in the high-end fashion market. She also sees even broader adoption of new applications in the longer-term future. The idea is not to create just a dress to wear once during a show, but something that can be worn several times on many different occasions. At home and outside the home. To demonstrate this, Stratasys is offering to print on visitors’ clothing during the show.

One of the main elements that emerge from Rashid’s collection is the simplicity and elegance of the dresses, combined with the uniqueness of the 3D printed customization. “I wanted to make dresses that would be very wearable, Rashid explained. “There were some limitations in terms of the area we could print so we used that in order to make the different sections fit the body patterns as well as the 3D printed pattern.” Certain elements are a direct result of the unique characteristics of the 3D printable materials. For example, a transparent yellow pattern on a black dress give the illusion that the material changes color as the dress moves.

The SSYS 2Y22 collection featuring PolyJet 3D printing on textiles culminates years of work by Stratasys' Naomi Kaempfer

The collection of 3D printed dresses by various designers is reflecting the impact the past two years had on the fashion world. Both comfortable clothing with an eye on sustainability, and garments that express intense emotions, from anger to sadness to happiness. “We had the time to think about our inner world instead of our outside world. So a lot of the pieces that you will see here reflect on that either. We will talk about emotionally sensitive topics. We’ll talk about expressions of emotions. We’ll talk about tradition. going example. 3D printing on textiles is promoting and responsible manufacturing and is exploring topics such as inclusivity and diversity.

Other items of the collection really push the technology to the limits on dresses that are close to unique works of art, enriched by the possibilities of polyjet technology. The J850 Tech Style system was also used to create many other completely and usable final products such as purses, lamps and a very special reusable perfume bottle [More about that here]. In fact, the machine’s possible uses can range from some very practical and colorful, customizable buttons to futuristic conceptual smart-midsoles that can continuously gather data on the person wearing them.

The SSYS 2Y22 collection featuring PolyJet 3D printing on textiles culminates years of work by Stratasys' Naomi Kaempfer

Prêt à polyjet

How could polyjet technology be adapted to print on textiles and create unique end-use products? It was not easy. “Polyjet is an extremely accurate technology, up to 16 microns – Kaempfer explained – which means that the print platform has to be extremely stable. Introducing an element such as textiles on the build platform was very challenging.” The J850 Tech Style does this by using a custom jig, that holds the textiles in place firmly on the print bed. “It was not evident that we would succeed,” Naomi says. “The droplets need to be jetted so that they lined up horizontally perfectly on top of the printed and any jig could cause some movement. But our engineering team developed it so that it’s fully stable.

The SSYS 2Y22 collection featuring PolyJet 3D printing on textiles culminates years of work by Stratasys' Naomi Kaempfer

Not only that: the J 850 Tech Style can print on finished and even previously worn clothes, thus revitalizing and customizing otherwise plain garments. This is in spite of the fact that the printer has a 36 by 46 cm build platform that may appear limiting. The way the Stratasys engineers got around it is by adding a 5 cm space beyond the build plate for the textiles to be placed. This space can be extended to up to two meters through the custom jigs. “This jig and the extra space allow us to print directly on pants or on sleeves,” Naomi said and we will demonstrate that during the show offering visitors the possibility of having something printed on their shirt or even pants while they wait.

If 3D printing on textiles is very much enabled by the evolution of polyjet hardware, the production of more durable final parts such as the perfume bottles is made possible by significant advancements in polyjet materials science over the past few years. Neither would be possible with GrabCAD Print, the software that takes these multi-color files from the CAD design programs and feeds them to the machine. This combination of elements will now be continuously expanded into new technologies and processes, such as those available via the Origin and SAF systems. This combination of textiles and multiple new technologies is bound to exponentially expand the possibilities. “We really are just beginning to discover them,” Naomi concluded.

Photos credits: Alessandro Polli

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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