Electroloom Throws In The Towel

The once successful Kickstarter and National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant winner Electroloom is saying “Thanks and Farewell” to its backers, supporters, and sponsors. The startup ran out of funding while developing printer-like machine that uses electrospinning to automatedly produce ready-to-use garments.

Electroloom has been an ambitious project to explore if electrospinning could be made viable for garment manufacturing. The process that uses a high voltage to transform a resinous liquid into non-woven fabric was originally invented for textile fabrication, although its low throughput has always been a limiting factor. The method was mostly used in laboratory and medical applications. In 2014, Electroloom began developing a process that would bring the technology back to its fibrous roots, building an amazing prototype machine that could print an entire shirt in one piece. Electroloom’s Kickstarter campaign was funded in 2015, and earlier this year, an NSF research grant was awarded to the startup.

Nevertheless, the development progress that should bring forth a series of ready-to-use garment printers never progressed far beyond the originally presented machine. When Electroloom announced that it was working on an “Electroloom Mini”, a machine that could print a sock in child size, the company was scraping the bottom of its funding barrel.

Despite the sad news, we congratulate Electroloom for their achievements and push towards fully automated garment production, a challenge and opportunity that is still open. In their farewell notice, the Electroloom founders mentioned poorly defined market opportunities as one of the reasons for the miss. What do our readers think? Is there a market for high-tech shirts that don’t come from Bangladeshi factories? Let us know in the comments!

28 thoughts on “Electroloom Throws In The Towel

  1. Yes – There is. Print the latest ‘hip’ shirt instead of the slave-labor-special transported by container and a working time clock enforced by 7.62mm punch cards? Sure. New seat cover for the Tesla? Groovy. Another vector towards the ST replicator I so desire. Ah – wait for it – the salty comments from those that insist on manifesting themselves to utter obnoxiousness…

  2. If by “poorly defined market opportunities” they mean being unrealistic to themselves and their supporters, then that makes sense. Sounds like they overshot their hope. Lots of potential here, but needs much more time and many more resources.

  3. I don’t see a lot of potential until you can make space suits from it, anyone can get scanned and fitted. When there’s a commercial demand, because anyone can go into space, then we’ll want a version that has a furnace, for use on rocky planets, shovel it full of the local sand and spray glass/mineral wool, make a dome, spray it with resin, there we go, glass reinforced habitat.

  4. Well it wouldn’t help employment here at home, at best it will just displace more American workers and send them to the welfare office. I

    From the looks of it,they couldn’t scale up the process at all or at a cost that made it worthwhile for others to invest in.

  5. As someone who’s worked with electrospinning before, they neglected a huge downfall of using the technique for anything but niche applications: there’s not much strength in the resulting “cloth”, its more like a pile of thread than cloth. Possibly could tweak polymer/solvent pairs around to get something workable, but you’re putting *a lot* more effort into doing something we’ve done on looms for centuries

    …of course, had they gotten the tech workable, it’d be a tiny hop to using electroactive polymers to do all sorta nifty things (can you guess what I was running through the electrospinning setup we had? :) )

          1. The thing is that we don’t have the original plans for the ark. All we have is some minor details and a BOM. The wood could have been laminated, stranded, etc., to give it greater strength and flexibility.

  6. Technology startups seem to skip the customer discovery phase where the customer needs are gathered and cataloged through face to face interviews. I’m personally going through that right now and it’s fascinating to find how your conceptions of what customers want can be so totally wrong. A reminded me that a company rarely exists based on a superior technology alone.

    1. Is it even a superior technology? Looms, sewing machines, and third-world economic disparity already do a fantastic job of making shirts. Those electrospun things look like wearing clothes made of spider web, and god knows what they’ll end up like coming out of a washing machine.

      Didn’t somebody try something similar with aerosol fibres for “spray-on clothes”? Nobody wants them either.

      Electrospinning I’m sure has a purpose, but it’s not clothes manufacture. So basically some geeks came upon a technology, thought of an awful application, and somehow somebody threw money at them. Which ran out.

    2. What I don’t get is why shows like the Consumer Electronics Show and ones for kitchen appliances and automotive products don’t allow in the very people companies are wanting to sell their products to, the end consumers? It’s just the press looking for stuff to report on, industry insiders looking at what their competitors are doing and buyers for stores hoping to latch onto the Next Big Thing, especially if they can nail down an exclusive deal.

      A huge number of products at these shows go nowhere because despite the media coverage and the media people there oohing and aahing, the buying public doesn’t want what’s being sold.

      Direct feedback from potential buyers is the best way to determine if your product is a winner or something that only a dozen people will ever see a need for.

  7. “What do our readers think? Is there a market for high-tech shirts that don’t come from Bangladeshi factories?”
    MOST probably not. HIGH-TECH shirts? Get real! Quit being sophomoric.
    This is one of those transformative innovations which can turn an entire industry–in this case, the textile industry–around. The NSF recognizes this fact; they don’t hand out grants without thoughtful study and careful evaluation.
    Consider a very telling sentence from your article: “The startup ran out of funding while developing [a] printer-like machine that uses electrospinning to automatedly produce ready-to-use garments.”
    The only things needed here are the usual: MONEY and a well-thought-out PLAN.

    1. Transformative or disruptive, usually means faster, cheaper, easier, more convenient or otherwise better in some way…. this did not seem to fit that description for mass market clothing. That singlet shown, the equivalent could be produced and outperform it, cutting 5 out of a dollar dust sheet in 5 minutes and taking 10 seconds to run a seam up each side on a 150 year old tech sewing machine. Even paying western factory labor rates you can knock them out for a dollar each with no custom equipment at a rate better than 30 an hour. Sure, more complex items take longer, and are worth more, but unless you happen to be a siamese twin, I doubt the complexity in clothing gets to where this has a benefit.

      3D printing is not replacing injection molding any time soon. It is transformative and disruptive for prototyping and custom work. It can do a few things that injection molding can’t do in one piece (Internal structure)

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