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.
Continue reading “Use A 3D Printer To Electrospin Textiles”
Electrospinning is the process of dispensing a polymer solution from a nozzle, then applying a very high voltage potential between the nozzle and a collector screen. The result is a very, very fine fiber that is stretched and elongated down to nanometers. Why would anyone want this? These fibers make great filters because of their large surface area. Electrospinning has been cited as an enabling technology for the future of textiles. The reality, though, is that no one really knows how electrospinning is going to become a standard industrial process because it’s so rare. Not many labs are researching electrospinning, to say nothing of industry.
[Douglas Miller] is building his own electrospinning machine. Except for the ominous warning signs on the 40-kilovolt power supply, there’s nothing in this machine that makes it look any different from a normal, homebrew 3D printer. There are stepper motors inside to raise and lower a carriage, a syringe, and a handy USB port. If you didn’t know any better, you could easily assume [Doug]’s OpenESpin is designed to print fidget spinners and tiny tugboats instead of films of carbon nanotubes and piezoelectric thermoplastics.
The DIY electrospinning machine is really what the Hackaday Prize is all about. It’s an enabling technology anyone can build for a few hundred dollars that also allows real science to happen. The films and blobs being formed in [Doug]’s electrospinning machine could easily find a home in a PhD candidate’s thesis or as a component in cutting edge research on everything from battery technology to the Internet of Underpants.
Even in this age of wearable technology, the actual fabric in our t-shirts and clothes may still be the most high-tech product we wear. From the genetically engineered cotton seed, though an autonomous machine world, this product is manufactured in one of the world’s largest automation bubbles. Self-driving cotton pickers harvest and preprocess the cotton. More machines blend the raw material, comb it, twist and spin it into yarn, and finally, a weaving machine outputs sheets of spotless cotton jersey. The degree of automation could not be higher. Except for the laboratories, where seeds, cotton fibers, and yarns are tested to meet tight specifications, woven fabrics originate from a mostly human-free zone that is governed by technology and economics.
Continue reading “Filling The Automation Gap In Garment Manufacturing”
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.
Continue reading “Electroloom Throws In The Towel”
Electrospinning is a fascinating process where a high voltage potential is applied between a conductive emitter nozzle and a collector screen. A polymer solution is then slowly dispensed from the nozzle. The repulsion of negative charges in the solution forces fine fibers emanate from the liquid. Those fibers are then rapidly accelerated towards the collector screen by the electric field while being stretched and thinned down to a few hundred nanometers in diameter. The large surface area of the fine fibers lets them dry during their flight towards the collector screen, where they build up to a fine, fabric-like material. We’ve noticed that electrospinning is hoped to enable fully automated manufacturing of wearable textiles in the future.
[Douglas Miller] already has experience cooking up small batches of microscopic fibers. He’s already made carbon nanotubes in his microwave. The next step is turning those nanotubes into materials and fabrics in a low-cost, open source electrospinning machine, his entry for the Hackaday Prize.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Source Electrospinning Machine”