While it isn’t for everyone, some of the best creators we know are experts at working with textiles. While the art is ancient, it isn’t easy and requires clever tools. [Lauren] collected a few 3D prints that can help you with knitting, crochet, and even a knitting loom.
Some of the designs are pretty basic like the yarn bowl, or pretty easy to figure out like the simple machine for re-spooling wool. We were frankly surprised that you can 3D print a crochet hook, although the post does mention that breaking them is a real problem.
We were really impressed though, with the sock knitting machine. There are actually a few of these out there, and you can see a similar one in the video below. Of course, like a RepRap printer, it needs “vitamins” in the form of metal rods, fasteners, and the like. There’s also a portable knitting loom which looked interesting.
We aren’t adept enough with fabric arts to know if these tools are serious contenders compared to commercial products, but we have to admit the sock knitting machine looks like it could be. We recently saw a sophisticated loom, although that might be a bit more than most people need. We have looked at open-source knitting machines, too. Of course, if you’d rather not create with textiles, you can always 3D print on them, instead.
Conventional textiles made of woven threads are highly useful materials. [Sara Alvarez] has had some success creating fabric-like materials through 3D printing, and though they’re not identical, they have some similar properties that make them unique and useful.
Fabrics are made by the weaving or knitting together many threads into a cohesive whole. [Sara]’s 3D-printed fabrics are different, since the printer can’t readily weave individual fibers together. Instead, a variety of methods are used to create similar materials.
The simplest is perhaps the chainmail method, where many small individual links join together to make a relatively rigid material. Alternatively, G-code or careful modelling can be used to create fabric-like patterns, which are printed directly in flexible material to become a fabric-like sheet. Finally, the infill method takes advantage of code inbuilt to a slicer to create a pattern that can be 3D-printed to create a fabric like material by removing the top and bottom layers of the print.
[Sara] demonstrates creating a simple “fabric” swatch using the slicer method, and demonstrates the qualities of the finished product. She also shows off various applications that can take advantage of this technique.
Want to make a t-shirt with a custom design printed on it? It’s possible to use a 3D printer, and Prusa Research have a well-documented blog post and video detailing two different ways to use 3D printing to create colorful t-shirt designs. One method uses a thin 3D print as an iron-on, the other prints directly onto the fabric. It turns out that a very thin PLA print makes a dandy iron-on that can survive a few washes before peeling, but printing flexible filament directly onto the fabric — while more complicated — yields a much more permanent result. Not sure how to turn a graphic into a 3D printable model in the first place? No problem, they cover that as well.
Making an iron-on is fairly straightforward, and the method can be adapted to just about any printer type. One simply secures a sheet of baking paper (better known as parchment paper in North America) to the print bed with some binder clips, then applies glue stick so that the print can adhere. A one- or two-layer thick 3D print will stick to the sheet, which can then be laid print-side down onto a t-shirt and transferred to the fabric by ironing it at maximum temperature. PLA seems to work best for iron-ons, as it preserves details better. The results look good, and the method is fairly simple.
Direct printing to the fabric with flexible filament can yield much better (and more permanent) results, but the process is more involved and requires 3D printing a raised bed adapter for a Prusa printer, and fiddling quite a few print settings. But the results speak for themselves: printed designs look sharp and won’t come loose even after multiple washings. So be certain to have a few old shirts around for practice, because mistakes can’t be undone.
That 3D printers can be used to embed designs directly onto fabric is something many have known for years, but it’s always nice to see a process not just demonstrated as a concept, but documented as a step-by-step workflow. A video demonstration of everything, from turning a graphic into a 3D model to printing on a t-shirt with both methods is all in the short video embedded below, so give it a watch.
Researchers in Singapore and at CalTech have developed a 3D printed fabric with an interesting property: it is generally flexible but can stiffen on demand. You can see a video about the new fabric, below.
The material consists of nylon octahedrons interlocked. The cloth is enclosed in a plastic envelope and vacuum-packed. Once in a vacuum, the sheet becomes much stiffer and can hold many times its own weight.
We’re impressed to see the continued flow of new and interesting ways to utilize 3D printing despite its years in the hacker limelight. At the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon [Billie Ruben] came to us from across the sea to demonstrate how to use 3D printing and fabric, or other flexible materials, to fabricate new and interesting creations. Check out her workshop below, and read on for more detail about what you’ll find.
The workshop is divided into two parts, a hands-on portion where participants execute a fabric print at home on their own printer, and a lecture while the printers whirr away describing ways this technique can be used to produce strong, flexible structures.
The technique described in the hands on portion can be clumsily summarized as “print a few layers, add the flexible material, then resume the printing process”. Of course the actual explanation and discussion of how to know when to insert the material, configure your slicer, and select material is significantly more complex! For the entire process make sure to follow along with [Billie]’s clear instructions in the video.
The lecture portion of the workshop was a whirlwind tour of the ways which embedded materials can be used to enhance your prints. The most glamourous examples might be printing scales, spikes, and other accoutrement for cosplay, but beyond that it has a variety of other uses both practical and fashionable. Embedded fabric can add composite strength to large structural elements, durable flexibility to a living hinge, or a substrate for new kinds of jewelry. [Billie] has deep experience in this realm and she brings it to bear in a comprehensive exposition of the possibilities. We’re looking forward to seeing a flurry of new composite prints!
Normally, a 3D printer that under extrudes is a bad thing. However, MIT has figured out a way to deliberately mix full extrusions with under extruded layers to print structures that behave more like cloth than normal 3D printed items. The mesh-like structure apparently doesn’t require any modification to a normal 3D printer, just different software to create special code sequences to create the material.
Called DefeXtiles, [Jack Forman] is producing sheets and complex structures that appear woven. The process is known as “blob-stretch” because of the way the plastic makes blobs connected by fine filaments of plastic.
Laser cutters are certainly a Hackerspace staple for cutting fabrics in some circles. But for the few fabrics derived from non-woven plastics, why not try fusing them together? That’s exactly what [Dries] did, and with some calibration, the result is a speedy means of seaming together two fabrics–no needles necessary!
The materials used here are non-woven goods often used in disposable PPE like face masks, disposable aprons, and shoe coverings. The common tool used to fuse non-woven fabrics at the seams is an ultrasonic welder. This is not as common in the hackerspace tool room, but laser cutters may be a suitable stand-in.
Getting the machine into a production mode of simply cranking out clothes took some work. Through numerous sample runs, [Dries] found that defocusing the laser to a spot size of 1.5mm at low power settings makes for a perfect threadless seam. The resulting test pockets are quite capable of taking a bit of hand abuse before tearing. Best of all, the fused fabrics can simply be cut out with another pass of the laser cutter. For fixtures, [Dries] started with small tests by stretching the two fabrics tightly over each other but suggests fixtures that can be pressed for larger patterns.
It’s great to see laser-cutters doubled-up as both the “glue” and “scissors” in a textile project. Once we get a handle on lasering our own set of scrubs, why not add some inflatables into the mix?