We are all used to desktop 3D printers that extrude molten plastic in layers to build up finished items. A pair of researchers at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, [Michael Rivera] and [Scott Hudson], have added another capability to their printer: electrospinning of textiles.
Electrospinning is a technique in which an extruded material is accelerated from the extruder by an electrostatic charge to form an extremely thin fibre. By applying a many-kilovolt charge between the extruder and the bed, they can create a fibre and lay it down into a mesh from a height to create a felt-like fabric. The same extruder can also produce conventional solid prints, allowing the creation of composite fabric and solid items. They demonstrate a variety of prints including a folding mobile phone stand, a woven lamp, and an interactive wooly sheep, which along with others can be seen in the video below the break.
The full paper can be downloaded as a PDF, and makes for very interesting reading. The voltages involved mean that your Prusa clone may not have this capability any time soon, but we look forward to the moment when desktop electrospinning is a feature on affordable 3D printers.